Yesterday Julia and I were in the middle of one of our epic Target expeditions. Each trip is like a leg of the Amazing Race. We usually split up now so that we can efficiently comb the store for precisely what we are looking for and conquer our mission. We text each other. We call for each other’s location and come to the rescue should someone need an opinion.
While traversing the aisles yesterday I came across an employee entering the trash at one of the end caps. He stopped and excitedly told some shoppers passing by that Monday was his birthday and he would be 59 years old. My inner Kiki cheered for him. I thought way to go buddy!! He was so happy and stood there beaming almost waiting for recognition from these two women. The one woman looked uncomfortable and said “Umm…Wow that’s great.” My smile turned to a frown. Then I heard “Like I care that it’s your birthday you freak” as they walked away laughing. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to take my cart filled with items and ram it into this woman and tell her how evil I thought she was. J wasn’t proud of that reaction. Instead I navigated into an empty area in front of a wall of sunglasses. The tears started flowing and I sobbed.
Did these women know? Did they care? Did they know or care that this person they had just shamed and ridiculed is a human? A person who breathes the same air as you. He may have certain challenges but do you know this? Do you know what his life has been like? How he may have struggled? Do you know how his mom may have felt when she heard others talking about him while she took him shopping or picked him up from the bus stop? Do you know the anguish his mother must have felt raising him the best she could so that he could be a proud store employee and live to at least age 59? My best guess is that the answer is no. No to all of it. We are so quick (me included at times) to judge people and situations. We box people up to what we think they are and leave them there on a shelf with no regard.
My thoughts drifted to my first gift and how he moves about his day despite his disability. He is a proud employee keeping the halls of our local middle school clear. He is an honorary member of our local fire company who knows more about fire service and apparatus than most chiefs in New York State. He’s an amazing son, great brother, talented writer, and the best human you ever want to meet. He has struggled but he has also worked like hell to get where he is today. He is a fighter so I know his future is bright as long as he keeps on pushing and keeping the light on. There will be women and voices like the ignorant shoppers I encountered. Sadly there will be many. Hopefully though he won’t hear them. He will stand tall and be happy with who is is.
My mind drifted back to the happy employee. My wish is that others will see your light and let it burn away the judgement they let fly. I hope your next year and many years ahead are as bright as you are. May each birthday candle in your cake remind you of the light that you bring to this world.