A Transformation

We were standing in line to buy popcorn, excited about our first “date night” in a long time.  For us, going to the movies is usually a family affair and the selections are usually the animated sort.  But tonight, it was just Ben & me and we were ready to be swept away by an engaging storyline and plot.  One of the things I have always loved about going to the movies is the transformative experience I sometimes have…when I leave the theatre feeling informed and empowered by the imagery and dialogue played out on the movie screen.   Little did I know, the transformation I was about to experience was getting ready to take place in the concession stand line.

As Ben wrapped his arm around me and ordered a super-sized bucket of popcorn, it happened.  Above the roar of conversation in the lobby, I heard a voice from behind me distinctly say,

“That’s so retarded.”

In that moment, a piece of me died, but a far bigger piece of me was born.  My heart began to race and my face became flushed.  I quickly turned around only to find three teenage boys sharing a laugh over something they thought was so “retarded.”

Ever since I learned about the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, I have been on a mission to do my part and stop the use of the “r-word.”  Our family has spent the past year advocating for this campaign and using our voices to promote the acceptance and inclusion of people living with intellectual disabilities.  We eat, sleep and breathe this campaign and yet, this was the first time I had found myself confronted by the monster.

It’s far easier to advocate when your audience is at arm’s length.  Sharing our mission through blogging, concerts, speaking engagements, and Facebook is the easy part.  Looking the enemy in the eye is a whole different ballgame.  And while this moment was completely unexpected, I was completely prepared.  Prepared to demand respect for my children and every other person living with an intellectual disability in this world.  Prepared to be a voice for those that need it the most.

I took a deep breath and began to speak…and as I spoke to the boys and explained why their choice of words was so hurtful, I found myself feeling more and more passionate about the cause and more determined to make a difference.  The boys listened intently and apologized profusely. I can say with reasonable confidence, those three boys will never use the “r-word” again.

As Ben and I settled into our seats for the movie, he grabbed my hand and our eyes filled with tears.  We both knew that the transformative experience we had come to the movies for, had already happened.

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10 responses

  1. Amy – thank you so much for sharing. I am so happy that you were able to speak your mind and unburden your heart in such a way that those boys understood (and that’s saying something, because I do believe that teenage boys heads are made from the materials of bowling balls). Good for you!

  2. I love your post… SO many times I am faced with this situation and get so emotional I lose my words. God bless you and yours 🙂

  3. It takes constant work. We had the opportunity to perform overseas with Special Olympians, and we even had a child, who has a cousin with Down Syndrome, unthinkingly say something was “retarded”……all the mothers of the Special Olympians addressed it, and the girl was embarrassed, but it’s become a word that we don’t even think about…..like saying “That’s so gay”. And I think the more grown ups can address it to children and teenagers, without getting upset, but just explaining the hurtfulness, the more likely it is to sink in.

  4. Amy, I have a friend, that just gave birth to a gorgeous baby boy. She and her husband are very happy and proud. He was born with Downs Syndrome. During her pregnancy, I mentioned your cause and possible support groups. She s overwhelmed at this time, while he s still in Nicu. At the point when she is interested, could I introduce the two of you. I think you will be able to give her encouraging words. Thanks for all you do. Pam cooke

  5. Thank you for sharing. I just found myself in that awkward, “do I say something, or not” moment. I have to confess, I failed to say anything. Had it been in person, I’d have done it, but it was Facebook and someone shared a viral picture that used the r word. I didn’t want to start a “thing”. Your post made me realize I did the wrong thing. This is a “thing”, that needs to be started.

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