Acceptance is growing.
I saw examples of it tonight in simple acts of human kindness.
Tonight was our city’s parade. This isn’t just any parade. Thousands flock downtown to see it. Bridges and streets shut down for hours. The parade itself lasts for close to two hours. It is massive to a small town girl like me.
We went with a group of friends. There were lots of children in the group, including our friend’s little boy who has Down’s Syndrome, and another little boy who goes to Ben’s school who is in a wheelchair.
When the parade began the three boys lined up along the sidewalk, mixed in the throngs of people. Two boys with a visible disability and one boy whose disability is hidden. All three boys were treated with love, respect, and kindness throughout the evening.
My son, who usually has to be prodded to interact with others, quickly learned that waving and yelling, “Hi!” would often results in beads, candy, and other trinkets being tossed this way. So, for the next two hours, he waved excitedly and had a blast filling his bag with more and more goodies. He approached the people passing by in the parade. He gave out high fives and fist pumps. He even chatted away with the people next to us, comparing his growing bead collection with theirs.
As I watched Ben having a great time running up and down the sidewalk, retrieving the beads, I thought of the little boy in the wheelchair who had to watch the action from the sidelines. The loud noises from the fire trucks and the blaring music were obviously bothering him, as he held his hands to his ears for most of the evening. Many, many of the people passing by in the floats noticed him and took the time to come over and give him the beads and trinkets.
At first, Ben was completely engrossed in acquiring beads for himself. But it only took me whispering in his ear once about sharing, and soon enough, he was running and putting beads around his friends’ necks as well.
I was proud that Ben never became upset if he didn’t catch a bead tossed his way or if the people passed over him and tossed the beads to someone else.
His energy and optimism never wavered. Even if he was passed over, he still jumped up and down, waved his hands, yelling “hi” as he raced towards the beads that were flying through the air.
“I’m rich!” he shouted with delight.
“Yes,” our friend’s mom said. “You are rich, indeed!”