Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Teaching Tolerance

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Teaching Tolerance

The following is from the WSA message board. I still peek in from time to time, and I thought this was a gem that begged to be shared. Hopefully, Megan won't mind. I admire how she handled this situation with class and kindness when it would have been so easy to give the customer the verbal tongue-lashing she so richly deserved (or accidentally pull pepper spray from one's purse and discharge it in her general direction). I sometimes wonder how I will handle situations like this in the future. I have already handed out one of my little information cards I carry with me everywhere in my own purse. I am glad I have more seasoned mothers' footsteps to follow, and I hope I exhibit a fraction of the class and grace they do.

I own a deli/convenience store in a very small town. Everyone knows my son Conner, and, believe me, Conner knows exactly who they are before they even get out of the car. The other day during our daily lunch rush, Conner was going about his normal routine. As I'm running the cash register, he works the crowd (everyone standing in line). My customers love every minute of it as well. Standing towards the end of the line is a middle-aged woman just watching every move my son is making. And as I'm cashing each person out in the line I'm noticing that she is now talking to herself about how this little boy's mother needs to come and get control of him. She just kept talking aloud so that by chance someone might agree with her. So, I just kept one ear and one eye on this situation going on with this lady. She just continued making rude comments about Conner. She went from one thing to another. "This boy is out of control. He needs to have a foot up his a** for how he is behaving." Now, mind you, I am trying to tend to my customers and still trying to pay attention to this woman. I'm getting very angry by this point. As she is getting closer to my register, one of my regular customers comes walking through the door. Conner, of course, goes running up to her and hugs and kisses her, then he decides to give everyone in line a hug and kiss and tell each and every one in the store "WELCOME TO (name deleted) DELI". I'm laughing as he is doing this. He does this all the time, and my regular customers all expect it when he's there. Just as this woman approaches my counter to pay, Conner walks up to her and reaches his hands out to give her a hug. Well, she ignored his approach by fumbling in her purse. Conner then looks her in the face and yells at the top of his lungs, "Give me a hug!" She looked at him and said, "where is your mother? Maybe if she paid more attention to you, you wouldn't have to beg strangers for hugs." Now you can all imagine the fire that was running through me. I collected her money then said, "Conner, come help mommy bag this nice lady's food." As Conner was deciding what size bag to use, I very politely said to her, "I'm very sorry if my son's behavior offended you, but this is who he is. It's called WILLIAMS' SYNDROME. (I pulled my pen off my apron and wrote it down for her) It is a rare genetic disorder. Conner has a number of medical problems as well as developmental delays, and socially Conner is above and beyond where he should be." She said, "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. What is WS? I've never heard of that. Is it like Down syndrome? Is he slow?" I just looked at her and smiled. I handed her the paper and told her to look it up on the computer. I told her she would have a different opinion about my son after she learned what WS was. I am not religious by any means, but I so many times tell everyone that Conner was given to ME for a reason. He reminds me everyday not to take anything for granted. We do the best we can with what we have been given. Conner then yells, "Yeh, mom, that's right!" and, "Give me high 5." So, of course, I did. She took her bag and I told her to have a good day. People are so quick to make judgements. People can look at my son and know that something is just not right with him. You know they want to ask, but they never do. Personally, I just tell people that "He has Williams' syndrome." I am not ashamed or embarrassed. It opens the door for questions. I feel one of my duties as a WS mother is to educate people.

Megan, mom to Conner

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15 Comments:

Blogger Julie said...

I do not look forward to situations like that but I know they are coming. Noah already says "hi" to everyone, the only thing stopping him from hugging people is that he isn't walking yet. He puts his arms out to everyone even if I'm not speaking to them. Thanks for posting this hopefully it will help me to deal with this type of situation when it occurs.

8:39 AM  
Blogger All moments remembered said...

Good for her!! I have to say I am not sure I could have handled it with such grace. I am a momma bear when it comes to my babies. I hope that woman looked up WS and then had a some compassion and UNDERSTANDING!! Conner sounds like a sweetie pie to me!!
Stacey

8:42 AM  
Blogger THE PASLAY'S OF MOUNTAIN HOME said...

BRAVO TO CONNER'S MOM MEGAN!!! IF I WAS A CUSTOMER AT THIS DELI I WOULD OF JUST PUT MY FOOT IN THIS WOMAN'S... WELL YOU KNOW ME! WHAT BURNS ME THE MOST IS PEOPLE CHOOSING TO BE SO IGNORANT, RUDE AND SPEAK BEFORE THEY THINK IT TOTALLY THROUGH!

NANCE, YOU ARE AN AWESOME WOMAN/MOMMY ALL AROUND AND YOU WILL HANDLE THINGS WITH ERIK JUST FINE!!!

9:50 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

I believe educating people, as Meghan does and we all try to do, will hopefully bring the respect to all people with abilites different than a "typical" person. These people are not atypical per se, but have the very unique ablity to teach us in their own way more about ourselves and humanity in general. It is a rare gift, I feel so blessed.
XOXO
Amy

10:34 AM  
Blogger LZ Blogger said...

Nancy - Thanks for sharing Megan's story. It really is very easy for all of us to make judgments way too soon on way too many things. Megan's comment that Conner was given to HER for a reason is absolutely correct and in her discussion with that lady, she just proved it to be true! Here's a HIGH FIVE to Megan! ~ jb///

11:06 AM  
Blogger THE PASLAY'S OF MOUNTAIN HOME said...

I HAVE BEEN THINKING ABOUT THIS A LOT THIS MORNING. I JUST CAN'T BELIEVE THIS WOMAN WOULD NOT GIVE CONNER A HUG, SHE WAS SOOOOOOO WRAPPED UP IN HER OWN ISSUES AND INSECURITIES! ANYHOO... I WANTED TO SAY BRAVO TO CONNER AS WELL, WHAT A PRECIOUS BOY HE TRULY IS!!!

I WISH THIS DELI WAS HERE IN OUR SMALL TOWN... IT WOULD BE MY NEW FAVORITE HANG OUT!

BIG HUGS!

11:41 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

Hey Guys, Megan is a friend of mine,and I have told her how proud I am of her. She handled that sooooo well. I told her that I don't know how I would have handled it. Conner had a late DX as well.(this past Nov.) We met them at Dutch Wonderland. I have trouble keeping my cool anymore when it comes to ignorant people. This lady was obviously not one of Meg's regular's. They all know Conner, and expect his hugs and greetings. Phooey on her. She is the one missing out.

3:30 PM  
Blogger Lisa R said...

Damn it I go away ge tbusy with work then cheat and read the first post!!!! Oh what sould one do with me...I have some catchng up to do so I'll be back in past psots beware LOL...I have to laugh because A. This is a AMAZING story It made me smile smile smile...What a terrific attitude I LOVE IT...Also as I was deleting all the WS list mail thinkg I get now,,,you know the all in one deal...anyway I was thinking I hope I am not missing something ...then I thought if I was I would know, usually do ys know ;) not the pt...Pt is we get it. THANKS!!!!! For Sharing Love You Tons!! Night ;)

8:44 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

I am so sick of people who judge other people wihtout knowing anything about them!
Megan did a fabulous job handleing that and i only hope to be as brave as she was when faced with that type of situation.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Rosemarie said...

To the mom:
What incredible restraint you showed! Many mothers would have punched that rude woman's lights out. Really!

To the woman in line:
Some lessons in life have to be in your face; unfortunately, it was your turn.

To Nancy:
So glad you shared a profound incident that ended well. Educate those with hardened hearts!

To the boy at the Deli:
Keep showing the world pure love, and thanks for teaching us!

9:48 AM  
Blogger MsMeg said...

Hi everyone..... It's Megan
Thank you all for your comments. As mad as I was at this lady, I really was not going to stoop to her level. You all will handle these situations with grace. Believe me I am a person who doesn't hold anything back, If I think something I say it. But this situation was different. When it happens to you, take it and run with it, let them know "it's WS" . Look beyond there ignorance, we are here to get the word out. Believe me "we" as mothers, fathers, ect. are the best educators available to society.

Megan
mom to conner 6ws

10:24 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Thank you, Megan! You are an incredible mother, and I am honored you stopped by. You and Conner have so much to teach this world, and I am so glad to have examples like you to follow, since I am fairly new at this and am making things up as I go along half of the time.

Kudos to you!

11:22 AM  
Blogger ~Deb said...

They're just not informed, Nance. People are very quick to judge, especially this day of age, because there are kids who are out of control with no discipline----but it's not up to them to make those remarks or statements. I'm sorry your friend went through this, and possibly anyone with kids who have WS went through this. It's something I was never familiar with, until you educated me.

My heart goes out to her. She has to be ONE strong woman to keep her cool and to have even called her 'the nice lady'. I admire people like that...

Thanks for sharing this.

8:50 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

How unfortunate of that lady to be so rude... I didn't see anything in the situation that would cause her to have those comments. He was greeting and hugging people! At least he wasn't hitting them LOL This mom sure handled it with grace and I hope the lady did look it up and learn something.

2:37 PM  
Blogger All moments remembered said...

Nancy I thought of you last night!!! We were out at our rental house near you and Sparky came to visit us! I ended up in tears missing the place so much. Need to find new renters if you know of anyone!!
Hope you are having a wonderful weekend! The weather is just perfect!!

3:39 PM  

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