Monday, January 7, 2008
The Good, The Bad, and The Very, Very Ugly
This past weekend, Ashley and I had three very different encounters with teenagers/young adults. The contrast between each encounter was so great that I decided to share them all.
Ashley and I were waiting to pick up a prescription from the pharmacy at WalMart. Just as we had paid and were leaving, a young woman – I would estimate about 18 years old – lightly touched my arm and said “Your daughter is so beautiful.”
As I mentioned in my recent blog post about staring, Ashley has some facial differences which most people would not label as beautiful. Her left eye is very small and a cloudy green color. She has some of the classic features of a child diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and her smile is a little crooked and quirky. I have always felt she was beautiful, but for others, finding Ashley’s beauty means getting to know the goodness in her heart. For a stranger to say Ashley is beautiful, and I truly think she meant what she said, warmed my heart and almost brought me to tears.
Just a few moments after our encounter with the young woman at the pharmacy counter, Ashley and I were leaving WalMart to return to our van. A teenaged boy, probably about 14 or 15, spotted Ashley and could not take his eyes off her. It was the classic stare that drives me bonkers. He was with his family, and kept staring as they all walked away from us. Although he was headed in one direction, his head kept turning and staring in our direction. There was a look of both fear and disgust in his eyes, and honestly, I just wanted to smack him. But I didn’t have to – since he was not looking where he was walking, he walked right into a large column at the front of the store. Ouch!! If only he were insightful enough to know that his rude staring resulted in his injury.
The Very, Very Ugly
Yesterday was an unusually warm day in Richmond. By late afternoon, the outside temperature had reached 65 degrees and the sun was shining brightly. Ashley and I decided to go for a walk through our neighborhood – Ashley in her wheelchair and me pushing her.
We live in an older, middle-class neighborhood. Many of our neighbors are elderly, and everyone is friendly. As some of the elderly neighbors move into assisted-living homes, younger families are starting to move in. It’s a neighborhood where we feel safe and where we know almost everyone. However, one of the main roads through the subdivision is a cut-through, meaning people who do not live in the neighborhood use the road to avoid stoplights and take shortcuts to their destinations. Police intervention is often needed to slow down speeders but that has really been the extent of problems in the neighborhood.
As Ashley and I walked around the block, a car carrying 4 teenagers – probably in their late teens – approached us. I wasn’t paying much attention to the car other than to make sure Ashley’s wheelchair was far enough off to the side of the road as to not present a hazard. As the car approached, the driver slowed, and the teenager in the front passenger seat threw a partially-filled fast food cup at us. The cup contained a milkshake, and it hit the top part of Ashley’s wheelchair wheel, splattering milk shake over both of us. As soon as the cup was thrown, the driver sped quickly away and turned at the next street.
12-18 inches higher and the cup would have struck Ashley in the side of her head.
I wondered about the mothers of those boys – wondered if they would care that their sons acted in such a manner – wondered where the boys learned to disrespect and harm others.
It was quite an eventful weekend, and I think I will choose to remember the comments of the young woman at the pharmacy counter. Teenagers like her give me hope for the future. Maybe I can just send Clint Eastwood after the others.