Last week, my daughter and I made a stop to donate a teeny little wheelchair to a good cause. We were excited about the donation -- excited that this little chair that served both a dear friend's little boy in Minnesota and then our Mason would get a new life caring for a sweet child in Poland. We were excited.
But the woman we met with left me with an angst in my heart that I spent hours trying to decipher. She was perfectly polite. She gave us a tour of the facility. She introduced us to people using the gym, playing on the basketball court, and working within her own office. So I was struggling to determine exactly why I needed to get away from her. Why my heart was offended with her and I wanted to flee.
On the one hand, she was pushy about why my boys didn't take part in the activities at the site. I tried to explain that they already were plugged into the community before the facility opened and frankly, Benjamin far favors the arts to sport participation. She expressed some disdain before telling me about an all-disabled theater group he could join. I explained again that he had his own activities and was perfectly content.
Please understand, I think everything this organization is doing is wonderful. And the facility was seriously state-of-the-art. If Benjamin were even a little interested, it would be a fantastic place. I understand it serves a need for many. I understand that the theater group she spoke of is heart-warming and allows participation for some who would not have that opportunity elsewhere. I get it. My angst was not with the mission, but rather within me, in regard to my children.
As I struggled to put my finger on what about it bothered me, I explained it to the rest of my little family later that evening. I was grasping for understanding of the bereft way the entire visit made me feel. It took Benjamin less than 30 seconds to figure it out:
"It was segregation disguised as inclusion, Mom."
Yes, that was it exactly. I felt like they were trying to put my young men in a box -- a very well-contained box, a very well-meaning box, a very well-equipped box but a box that did not sit well with me.
My wise son teaches me often. But this was eye-opening. Benjamin has never been a fan of activities that set him apart from his peers. Segregation by definition is the "action of setting someone apart from other people."
And though the facility is state-of-the-art; even though it serves a need; even though the theater group allows participation to those that would not otherwise be able to participate, it IS segregation. Oh that we lived in a world where we could co-exist. A world where there was not a question about inclusion -- it just was.
Mason had an eye doctor appointment on Thursday. As we waited our turn, a little boy walked in and walked straight up to Mason, "What is wrong with you?!" He asked extremely matter-of-factly. My amazing son explained that his legs didn't work very well to which the probably 8-year-old replied, "Why?" Dear Mason took a deep breath and explained that because he was born very early something happened to his brain that makes his legs not quite as strong as the little boy's. "Oh, OK." the little one said before turning to play.
I wanted to hug him. How much easier would life be if we all accepted just that easily that some people are different. Some people have different skin color. Some different physical abilities. Some have different emotional abilities. And others still have different learning abilities. Oh OK, let's play.
Today, a day where we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, I am reminded that when I introduced my then-five-year-old triplets to why we celebrate Dr. King, I was overwhelmed with emotion and began to cry. No, we haven't faced segregation because of our color, I told them, but the strides this great man made in Civil Rights for all people, will be the reason you are included and not separated from your peers. He paved the way. He paved the road we will roll down. I am so grateful.
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." -- Dr. King
And Dr. King, I have a dream that one day the world will be able to look past the crutches and the wheels and see that same content of character in my own children.
"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." -- Dr. King
I choose hope. I choose today, in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to choose hope that there are far more people who see the potential in my boys than people who want to label them and stuff them in a box. I choose hope.