Friday, August 13, 2010

Making a Difference

Fridays with Susan...

The first time I heard, or rather "read", "words hurt like a fist" was on a little card that my friend Dave (and avid blog-follower of Whatever He Says) handed out at a rights presentation he was giving for those with disabilities and their caregivers.  The agency he works for had begun a campaign (initiated by him) to stamp out the "r" word, because it is a word that has a long history of hurting people. 

I read on facebook this week a really bad comment.  Because it was made by someone, a generation behind me, whom I love very much, and want to preserve relationship with in the long run, I hesitated.  But in an effort to be funny, he made a very negative reference to people with developmental disabilities, even going so far as to say something about making fun of them.  He used the "r" word, and without batting an eye.

I hesitated, but only for a minute.  Sometimes it's hard to say something because you just don't have the words.  Other times it's hard because people who have that kind of humour can just as quickly turn it on you...  I was grateful to be armed with "what to say", thanks to what I had learned from Dave.  I waded in.

It takes a lot to offend me, but I work with people - children and adults - with developmental disabilities. One of our beloved grandsons has a developmental delay. Does that mean they deserve to be made fun of? Words hurt like a fist. The R word is as hurtful and evil to some (like me) as the N word. I hope you've just never stopped to think about it before and that the expression of my feelings will make a difference the next time... I love you, guy. Nothing changes that...

I had no idea what I was going to get back.  It could have been anything, trust me.  I was both relieved and absolutely delighted to get his response.  But even if he'd reacted in a way that was uncomfortable for me, I knew I'd done the right thing. 

Psst.
Hey, sorry definitely didn't mean to offend anyone, including you obviously. You're right, I definitely should have been more aware... You won't see the R word from me anymore, promise :-)
It feels good to have been used to make a difference.  How many people would have been hurt by that word in this person's circle of friends and acquaintances who now are safe?  Only God knows.   

I read once that the root of "encourage" means "heart" and that the word actually means to take a piece of your heart and break it off, as it were, and give it to someone else.  I don't know if I would ever have said anything if not for having been so directly encouraged by Dave and for having had the opportunity to have it reinforced by him on a number of occasions.  It's a really good feeling to know you've been a part of making some small difference.  There are fewer people going to be  hurt as a result of the words of that person who in turn was courageous enough to hear the truth and let it change his attitude. 

Dave, thanks for breaking off that piece of your heart for me so that I had something to break off and give too.  It feels good to be a part of something, however small my own efforts, that is making such a big difference.

"...learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."  Isaiah 1:17

8 comments:

Dave Hingsburger said...

... and you in turn have broken your heart into pieces for all of us who read this blog. I am really moved by what you did and how he reacted. In that moment where he was changed, the world changed - may even more be changed by this blog today.

Marilyn Yocum said...

So excellently written and so important, this. I applaud your willingness to risk relationship damage rather than neglect the duty to enlighten. It is not always easy to know when to speak up and when to remain silent. And even when you know silence is not the way to go, it is so hard to find the right response in the emotion of the moment, but Dave had already equipped you and you were prepared. Still you could have chosen not to speak up. Powerful story, Susan. The ripple effect of Dave's teaching . . . I think one person DOES change the world.

Susan said...

I think so too, Marilyn! Thanks for filling in all the important stuff I left out...

Belinda said...

I am moved by the way you communicated your offense Susan; lovingly; and that through it, others are sensitized. Kudos to you!

Hey, offense seems to be the theme of this week on so many levels.:)

Thank you for a most moving post.

Brenda said...

I'm amazed at your tact. Only you could have done it....and have it turn out so well. You're such a lovable Auntie. I know you're the favorite aunt in the family. You inspire me.

Theresa said...

Glad you were able to handle this situation so graciously. I worked with a girl who broke a guys nose for calling her brother the "R" word. Can't say I wouldn't have been more like her, but your way doesn't end with assault charges!! LOL

Kristin said...

Marilyn...it's obvious from this post that you have a beautiful heart, Thanks fro reminding us how important it is to step forward and advance this cause.

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg said...

The last time my husband was in NYC, he heard someone on her cell phone using the "r" word. Because he's been hanging out with me awhile, he was sensitive to how wrong it was, but because she was on her cell phone, in the middle of her own conversation, he didn't say anything. Later on, though, when we talked about it, he said, "You know, she said it on a public street. That makes it my business. So the next time I hear that kind of thing, I'm going to step in front of the person and say, 'No. Not on *my* street you don't.'"

Changing hearts and minds, one person at a time...Thank you for your beautiful piece.