28 February 2013

Ignore them. They don't count in life.

"Ignore people like him. There are all kinds of people you should ignore. They don't know anything so don't even look at them. Don't feel bad about it. It's just life." - Middle aged, professionally dressed father to his 5-7 year old daughter.

I had just picked up dog food and was leaving the aisle as I heard this life lesson being taught. This life lesson was brought by a grown man that by appearances would "know" better. Why this life lesson? Why at this time? One minute earlier another man in the same aisle was excitedly telling his elderly father he wanted to buy dog treats. The request was loud, verbally unclear but nonetheless filled with pure joy. The happiness that was obvious over his dog made me smile. I shared one second of eye contact with the father who appeared tired as he was gathering just what his son wanted.

I had obviously noticed the different abilities of the people in the aisle but wasn't focused on anything particular because I was tired after a 10+ hour work day, cold and dreading the food/water duty I had facing me at home with my own dog who would be wanting more attention than I wanted to give. My self-centered focus was harshly interrupted.

In my own life circumstances I've developed a gift (to put a positive spin on it) in situations where people are less than kind in the acceptance of different abilities arena. I can stare. Not glare. Intensely give eye contact until words do not need to be spoken. Most of the time the other party will express acknowledgement of their actions but there have been occasions where I have received spoken apologies without me ever saying a word. This of course; only occurs when the other party has even the smallest amount of compassion in them.

Tonight I walked past the father listening to his words of judgement to his daughter and giving this direct eye contact with no intention of any additional action. As I was turning out of the aisle I found myself completely frozen. I was shocked, hurt and disgusted. "Ignore him...doesn't know anything....don't feel bad....it's just life."

It's not my life nor should it be your life.

The next 30 seconds was like a blur. I spoke the words I usually let my eyes speak. "Teaching your child to be so tunnel visioned and so judgmental will cause her to miss out on the blessings of life. I guess it's just too bad we aren't perfect like you. What if we ignored everyone because they wear glasses like you? God willing you will never be put in the position to be ignored and have your spirit crushed by strangers due to different abilities." He never spoke. He didn't need to. Nothing could make up for what he had done. His words would not be erased with anything he could possibly say.

Walking past the father and son as I was leaving the aisle for the last time we exchanged direct eye contact and a smile. The father seemed a little less tired than the minute before. He seemed a little less burdened than the minute before. No words were spoken. There was no need. It's not about words. It's about actions.

It's amazing how less than 3 minutes of my entire day could have the maximum impact on my day. Who am I ignoring without realizing it? What am I missing out on because of my own tunnel vision?

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