Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You have a disability





I’ve mentioned it in passing… mostly the goofy stories.

I spent two years on a speaking tour after winning a state pageant.

You know, those glamorous things?  (y’all are thinking you’re at the wrong blog, right?)



Evening Gowns



Except that I was far from poised and usually had a pair of Converse sneakers on underneath those gowns (and as soon as I find that picture, I’ll prove it).


The speaking tour nearly did me in.


But to this day, it may be the one thing that I ever felt unselfish in doing.  Not because of any noteworthy oratorical skills.  Not because I held anyone’s attention.  And not because I threw up before going on stage.

But if it helped prompt one bit of kindness to someone, it was worth it.


In the world of pageants, you must have platform:  a topic important to you… and one you can make relevant to others.


And while others had platforms that were easy to envision, easy to measure…

Childhood Cancer Awareness

Literacy Programs

Senior Volunteering

Juvenile Diabetes


I found myself drawn to the simple thought that if we all assumed one thing about each other, the world would be a kinder place.




I don’t particularly love that word.

I let it define me for decades – accepting it like I accepted the space between my front teeth and the freckles on my arm.


But in the sense that a disability describes the way we feel about ourselves?  About the things we relegate ourselves to failure status over?  The things we assume we cannot do, or that everyone else can do better than us?  The I Can’ts in our life?


They dis-able us.


How about the things we let get in the way of our grand childhood dreams?  The things we dismiss as impossible  -

too late, too old, too hard.


Those are dis-abilities.


And worse?  Are the scars.

The experiences that paralyze us with fear or warn us from ever trying something bold and scary and powerful and healing.  Dis-abilities.

Cruel words that found their way into a place where we watered them and allowed them to continue to speak to us long after the speaker’s footfalls had echoed away.  Dis-abilities.

Abandonment or betrayal that dug a moat around emotions that were too wonderful to dare expose to harm again.  Dis-abilities.


And somehow we rationalize that the way we speak to ourselves, the way someone else spoke to us, the way someone else treated us, our humble beginning or spectacular fall from grace… are all legitimate reasons to abandon the attempt at an intentional life.

All reasons to feel less than.


It happens everywhere.  To everyone.


My guilt prompted this post after the heartbreak of watching a McDonald’s manager loudly berate a mentally-challenged employee while an entire restaurant watched and listened.

I was convicted by my uncertain response when my kindergartener said (so very unquietly, as five-year olds are apt to do),


That lady was MEAN.


That was mean, Mommy”.


I took the coward’s way out.  I went home and wrote a long message on McDonald’s customer service website.  They responded with a rote reply that they had notified the branch and were addressing it.

That employee swept the floor and ended her shift with a smile on her face.   I admire that kind of resiliency.  She knows her self-worth isn’t found in a bully’s words.


It made me wonder just how many times I had been less than kind to someone who had an invisible disability?  Because we really truly all do.  No one is immune from self-doubt.


That four-year old girl who stands blocking your cart in the middle of the aisle – completely ignoring you as you ask her to move.


Would you have had any idea she’d just turned deaf?



So many of us carry those disabilities on the inside.  I am grateful that mine serves to remind me to check my impatience, my pride, my ingratitude.

Pinned Image



Be kinder to someone with an invisible disability.  You deserve it.


Tina said...

I love this post.
It breaks my heart to see anyone mistreat others, especially those with a disability.
I have a hard time with this sometimes myself. I have cancer in my left eye and have now completely lost the vision. I am still adjusting and tend to run in to walls, door facings and people! I can only apologize so much, but I still get some very rude remarks. Sometimes I just push my buggy aside and go home.
My disability is mild compared to others.
Thank you for bringing this to the attention of others..and for having the heart to do so!

Mom of M&Ms said...

well said!!! and wow, what a reminder, and yes we all have invisible disablitlies... I carry mine around like pack mule... and I rarely look for it in others..

and can I just say that the McDonald's manager is sooo lucky I did not witness that!

Thank you Rachal!

Singedwingangel said...

OH Rachel the thought of that manager yelling at that person sickens me. I could not have stayed quiet, at all. I am a loudmouth by nature and she would have learned just how loud at that point. GRRR I hope McDonald's takes very appropriate actions..

Kmama said...

Ahhh, you are so good at making me cry lately.

This is a beautiful, and very important post. Kudos to you for writing it.

Michaela@Life With the Crazies said...

This is true, and beautifully written. Thank you for the reminder to be kind and patient with others, we do all have hidden things that weaken us.

Tamar SB said...

I'm tearing up reading this. Even my grandparents didn't understand that yelling at me to come to the kitchen did no good b/c I couldn't hear them! We all have abilities and we all have dis-abilites, it's what makes our world the place it is! And look at you in your gown! And so proud that Itty Bit knew that was wrong, you're raising a mensch (great kid)!

Allenspark Lodge said...

Your husband is a very lucky man.


NaomiG said...

Love this. So very true, and so easy to forget.

Eve said...

So well put!

SAHMwIssues said...

When I met you when we were young, I never thought of your deafness as a disability. I thought, "how cool that girl can talk with her hands!!" I don't know if you recall me asking you how to "say" all sorts of different things... but that's a great memory of mine. :)

Now that I have a child with an invisible disability (autism) this post so rings true. I think twice even myself when I see a child that I feel isn't receiving discipline. Or when I feel frustrated with a person who just doesn't seem to care. So many adults are just now finding out they have Aspergers.

My mom always taught me to not judge unless you've walked in their shoes. So instead of judging... I just think... I WISH SOMEONE WOULD TRY MY SHOES ON! LOL. :)


Susan said...

I love this post! Wish it was printed in one of the national news magazines, like Newsweek's "My Turn" column. It's so well-written and something everyone needs to read. It makes me crazy when people don't treat others with respect and dignity! Experts would tell us that the proper thing to do in the McD's case would be to quietly talk to the manager about her loud frustration with the disabled worker and point out that you and your son, as customers, had felt uncomfortable seeing someone belittled so publicly, especially since it was clear that the worker had challenges that kept her from being as good at her job as the manager wished her to be. Even without those challenges, no one deserves a public berating. Unfortunately, it is completely human for us to not behave as experts suggest WE should in those cases. It is more common for us to address that kind of behavior from a distance or not at all. In this time of elevated sensitivity, brought on by the Penn State scandal, we all say WE would have done something different to immediately bring that travesty to the police, but the truth, according to columnist David Brooks, is that history shows that people suffer "motivated blindness" —they look away from what makes them uncomfortable and try to rationalize it into a more palliative perception. It's our natural tendency to try to evade a confrontation over something in which we are not directly involved. (Hopefully the Penn State scandal will force a change in the public's trepidation over being involved) At least you DID address the issue to someone who could make a difference, and for that you should certainly be commended. While your initial response was uncertain, you followed through on what you knew to be the right thing to do so that the worker wouldn't continue to suffer public berating whenever at work. Also commendable: raising a son who is offended by mean behavior. McDonald's is very committed to employing people with mental challenges, so I am sure they DID contact the manager to try to ensure that that kind of situation doesn't happen again. You did the right thing.

Foursons said...

That scene in McDonald's breaks my heart. I hope the manager heard Itty Bit and felt convicted too.

I just saw on the Today show that a teacher and her classroom aide were abusing their students (a girl in particular) in a special ed classroom. It sickened me to no end. The poor dad was just in tears over the way these women treated his child. And this poor defenseless girl....

Thank you for bringing attention to how we all should behave and grant others grace even in the frustrating circumstances.

scooterpie said...

Well said sis

Liz {Learning To Juggle} said...

What a beautiful post. This is something I talk to Tommy about often. We discuss on a regular basis that sometimes the person who "deserves" our kindness the least probably needs it a most. We all need to remember that we often don't know the whole story (hell we often don't know even half of it). (although somedays its hard!!!)

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful and lovely post. You really are a gifted writer!!

Bethany said...

So well said. We just had a conversation about this same thing tonight. I hope Itty Bit knows just how special he is to care about those the world overlooks.

heather said...


stephanie said...

amen. amen. amen.

so perfect.

Stacy said...

You write so beautfully, Rachel. What a wonderful topic to be your platform. Love the picture of you in the gown, too.

It is so important for us to treat other with care, and ourselves. Thanks for the reminder.

Danielle said...

LOVE this post. Everyone needs to be reminded that we don't always know what someone else is dealing with. That slow poke who's ignoring the green light in front of you? Maybe they just got off the phone with their mom that their grandma just died. Or maybe that person taking too long in the bathroom is having a breakdown from trying to put on a happy face all day when their best friend was diagnosed with cancer....

Everyone is fighting some kind of battle. Whether its emotional, physical, or spiritual. We all need to be more patient....

Emmy said...

This gave me chills. What a truly powerful and wonderful post! wow- thank you.

And girl I did not know you were a state pageant winner!! My SIL's were both in pageants and I judged one once :)

The Lady Wolf said...

Very good post. It is striking true here too. I just watched a vlog about that our first words to a stranger shouldn't be "I'm deaf." He brought up some good points, like that if you say that, you are putting yourself "below" their level. Interesting isn't it?
And ha, I sometimes consider myself lucky to be deaf in some situations. :)
(((hugs!!!))) please email me. I miss you.

Beth Zimmerman said...

Beautiful Rachel! Thank you for sharing this! And it sounds like Itty Bit is going to be an AWESOME man with a BIG heart!

deepintheheartoftexas2 said...

I love this post!!! You are so right. Thank you for this and sharing it with us.

Not being a deaf person, I really think that most of take being a hearing person, being able to see for granted and that is sad.

Marley's Mama said...

Way to go, Itty Bit! Let 'em have it!

And thank you for this wonderful perspective. You're right, and I'd never thought of it this way.

robin said...


I don't know what I would have done in that moment. I know what I think I would have like to do have done though. I'm so glad you followed through with your complaint! You and Itty Bit have great big hearts!

LaVonne @ Long Wait said...

Thanks for this Rachel. I want the kind of courage to stand up for the right thing. (I know I lack it.)

Thank you for the reminder.

Happy Week!

Anonymous said...

OK...so this one may be my favorite of all time posts - the only reason I say "may be" is that it is still in competition with your "Gramma-over-there" post about her wonderfully lived life & how deeply she is & will be missed.

So, as your Mommio, who has NEVER viewed you as handicapped - I want to say that I luv u and I am so very proud of you at this moment... PS me & Itty-bit ran into that little girl in the wheelchair (who by the way is now a grown woman) when I took him to see the movie "Hop" and introduced him as your son - she still remembers you... wonder if she noticed that he looks enough like you to be your clone? :)

K- floortime lite mama said...

you make me cry my darling Rachel
I loved your post
You are so very right

Melissa said...

You are a blessing Rachel, to so many. Thank you for sharing your heart.

He & Me + 3 said...

I love that first picture of you. Beautiful. This is an awesome post. You speak & write so well & from the heart. Wish I could do so.

Tiffany said...

I needed to read this today. And I know you understand. Thanks for putting into words what my heart has been screaming.

GunDiva said...

I don't know what I can say that everyone else hasn't already said.

You're a rock star.

Jenn said...

WOW!!! Absolutely beautiful and mind changing!

Jess said...

Amen to all the other comments. I could say more, a lot more, but I'll keep it at that.

Lexie Loo, Lily Boo, and Dylan Too! said...

Very well written, Rachel. What a great post!

Foursons said...

Wowzer, look at you with 35 (now 36) comments on this post! You have hit the BIG TIME girly.

I love your insight into your world and I love that you share it with us. And Itty Bit? I love that boy. He's right- that lady WAS mean and I sure hope she heard him.

(Did I already comment on this post? I think I did. Hmmm...well you get two from me now.)

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