I worked for Kmart for almost 8 years. One of the highlights for shoppers, at least, was the Blue Light Special. It was an in-store promotional item that would go on display. Shoppers wouldn’t know about it until the day of. You would see a blinking blue light in the area of the promotional product, as a manager’s voice came over the loud speaker, “Welcome Kmart Shoppers. We have a Blue Light Special today in the ______ department. Head toward the _____ aisle and take a look at these amazing cut prices.” All you could hear was running. Once at the blue light, all you could see was bodies pushing each other out the way to grab whatever this product was, that happened to be half priced or more. The special never lasted very long. Maybe 15 minutes. No more than 20. Bystanders would pass by to glance at what all of the commotion was about. For the employees, it was the reaching, grabbing & pushing — THAT was entertainment. Now I would like you to use your imagination. Replace the product with my son. The blue light is still on but instead it’s highlighting autism, even though the shoppers are unaware. Visualize my son standing, scripting a passage from The Cat In The Hat or from an episode of Tasty Time with ZeFronk on the Disney Junior channel. He’s loud. Extremely loud. No intercom needed to announce his presence. He is his own introduction. All eyes are on him. Some are laughing. Some heads shake in judgment. Some portray faces of pity. The circle around him becomes bigger as if staring will answer the questions they aren’t asking or the staring (because of the obvious dislike) will cause such a feeling of excruciating discomfort. Not stated but our removal from the premises is so desired & felt. No worries. Overwhelmed by the air being sucked from him, all for an audience who wasn’t invited anyway, we walk away but not before a grand finale. A cry has erupted. My son’s freedom to script has been tampered by the unpleasant & distasteful remarks and fixation of his actions. A few think he can’t possibly understand, yet he hears & feels their every word. I want to shout “Are you satisfied? Have you been fulfilled by today’s display?!?!” Instead we walk out, hugged up, both in tears & left with nothing crossed out on our grocery list.
I ask you to imagine but for Callie, experiences like this is kept in his reservoir…and mine too. Acceptance seemingly is only discussed one month out of the year and even then, people are still clueless. A parent’s story is merely just that – a story. Usually, if not directly affected, there’s no urgency for change. It only becomes real when your life is unexpectedly altered and the sight of you….the normalcy of you has been replaced with a dissimilarity.
I took Callie the other week to a trampoline park. He was having a ball until onlookers stared at him as if he was diseased or crazy. Callie scripts a lot more when in a crowded area. He becomes increasingly louder with every word. His sensory is literally off the roof and if he cries, beware. I was already having a down moment watching security study my son as if he was a case. I would hold back tears of anger and disgust and calmly explain that what they are witnessing is autism. It would appear that they understood but the Blue Light Special, although unseen, was actually seen. Even though instantly educated by my explanation, they remained unmoved & indifferent. I got home that night and an uncontrollable ocean soaked up my pillow. It wasn’t that I hadn’t ever experienced ignorance but sometimes you get drained & frazzled from your words being set on instant replay. Every action requiring a reaction and for that moment, I needed my essence of a being to stop and let me take a breath….and see nothing, hear nothing, feel nothing….just for a minute, before resuming life as usual. It’s interesting because two weeks prior, I was deeply touched, awestruck even at the enormous support Callie received on Easter. He was the biggest & oldest kid searching for Easter eggs but no one seemed to mind. No one questioned his attendance. One friend told me that she looks for him every year. I was not prepared for this kind of response. I had my guard up ready to defend my son’s right to be out there with his Easter basket. Rather people just wanted to make sure he was ok and to see if there was anything Callie needed. Not used to that kind of acceptance at all, but beyond honored that people were that nice. I cried during this time also, mainly from being in utter shock. In fact, there are people in the world who actually care, and even if they don’t understand, compassion takes over and the need to understand comes second.
How is it that one week people are drawn to my son and the next week, he is looked upon with contempt? Same individual….yet the meet & greet (if any) is drastically different. If I could, I would ask Callie – “Can Mom borrow your heart?” I want people to see what I see. A glimpse would do. It would revolutionize society and its thoughts & lack of reception for differences. At least that’s my hope. Acceptance & respect needs to be more than an every blue moon topic at the dinner table or any table for that matter. And each time, it shouldn’t take an incident to wave its hand for the conversation to start. What if society laid their hearts out for public showing? Unlike these wonderful souls whose hearts are pure & genuine, what would we see? Would their hearts come close to being true & transparent or would the opposite be laid out? These precious gifts are being passed a conclusion before a real encounter. Their story has been condemned before the prelude…..without realizing our “deep within” doesn’t compare to these beautiful people who just want to be welcomed & recognized too.
So I ask again, Callie, can I borrow your heart?….in hopes for a change.
Thanks for listening,