Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Acceptance in the Community

She is a small framed lady, but the kind you suspect could kick some butt if need be. The lines on her face show her age, even though she has long bleach blond hair styled like a teenager. She runs a convenience store on the far side of our neighborhood. One of those places where things cost two or three times what they would in a grocery store merely because of the convenience of running in and grabbing it quickly and the ability to get your gas at the same time if you wish. A place where they keep the flimsy attractive kids' toys on display right at the front door where hard to manage children can't miss them.

She adores Connor. If I go into the store and leave Connor in the car with his sisters, she will come out to see him. He smiles every time he sees her because he knows that she is so happy to see him. I had explained to her last spring that he has autism and may not answer questions for her like typical children his age and to my disappointment she seemed distant the next time we went in. I guess we all have bad days and I chalk it up to such as she has been her normal loving self since.

This morning when we stopped by to get a juice for Connor's lunch she met us at the door arms opened wide and a big smile on her face. "Connor! How's my little buddy? I'm gonna get all your huggings.". She squeezes him and he smiles and giggles. He shows her how great the toy display is with "Ohhs" and "Ahhs", then we grab a juice and make our way back up to the cash register.

She is slow ringing us up and is looking every which way for something. Finally she stops "I had a little toy up here waiting for Connor and now they've gone and done something with it."
"That's OK, he's on his way to school and would probably lose it in class."
She continues to look around and points to a marshmallow, chocolate covered treat and asks "Can he have one of these?" She frowns a little as she asks, my face must have gave me away.
"Oh you don't want him to have that do ya?" she says.
"Well not really. If he wasn't on his way to school it would be OK, but I'm afraid he would be covered with it by the time we got there."

As we leave she still makes a fuss over him even though there are customers waiting. Her making a fuss on him has an effect on those waiting however and they can't help themselves from smiling at him and waving or saying "Hi little guy!"

It seems funny to me that adults are still so prone to peer pressure. What she does makes it OK for other adults that see it to do the same. What she does is so important, she promotes acceptance of him in our community.


Swearing Mother said...

Hi Dgibbs, another thing is that when other folks see your store lady making a fuss of Connor, they probably notice him for the first time and realise just how lovely he is. There's nothing like a gorgeous little person to bring out the friendliness in most people.

Suzy said...

Take a look at my blog...
I tagged you....


Jeni said...

My daughter has worked at two local establishments here since Maya was born and we have frequented both places (one is a small restaurant/bar, the other the grocery store) all the time. From early on when Maya started getting therapy, we never kept any of the therapy stuff quiet, last spring, all three of my kids, plus a good friend of mine, one of Maya's therapists too, and I all participated in the Autism Walk at Penn State University and I had information in our church bulletin about it so those from church who maybe weren't aware before knew then that Maya was autistic. The people who own the restaurant where Mandy worked, as well as all her former co-workers at the grocery store make a huge fuss over Maya (and little Kurtis too now) whenever we come into either place. THe majority of the members of our church now also do the same when we are able to get there for services. I know there are a goodly number of other children in this area who are autistic but very few people know that and you rarely see those kids out in public either -like their parents keep them hidden away. My two little grandkids may have "issues" with behavior, learning and the like, but they are going to get treated by us and by as many people as possible as normally as possible and NOT kept home, not secreted away or anything like that. I don't think you are doing that either with Connor but when people see these kids more and more and learn that they are after all just children who simply put, understand things differently from the rest of us, I think it speaks legions then for autistic people all over, to help give a better understanding of what it is like, what is often involved too. That lady you described will by her show of attention and affection for him, help him every bit as much as all the other things you and your family are doing for him with the schooling, therapies and such by creating a more open atmosphere, a more accepting one for him that way.

Suzy said...

Connor's a special kid, and his genuineness shines through.

Hard not to respond to that....

Love you


merry weather said...

I liked reading this - it was heart-warming. Her kindness and intelligence made you and Connor feel good and important. To have people like that in your community is really valuable, a true lady!