When I was little, I really struggled with making friends. Actually, I still struggle with making friends. But when I was little I would often get reduced to tears, asking my mom why I couldn't find good friends.
I know you've been there, too. People make careless comments that hurt. For some very sad reason, teenagers make a lot of careless comments.
For another reason unknown to me, teenagers like to make a lot of jokes about people with disabilities. My honest, totally ungrace-filled reaction is a combination of wanting to burst into tears and scream that person's head off. I want to shove them in the shoes of someone with a disability so they realize it is not something to make jokes about. I want to force them to feel compassion.
Why do you feel the need to laugh about that kid walking down the hallway with a gait that might be different than yours?
Why do you make jokes about serious illnesses?
Why do you make careless Facebook statuses about disabilities?
And why do you "like" those Facebook statues that are belittling another person?
I don't understand. But I've tried to put myself in your shoes. Can I try to understand you, and then try to help you understand me? Okay.
I think you may laugh because you are uncomfortable. You don't know what to do with your classmate, and so you make a joke to cover the awkwardness.
Maybe you don't know the meaning of the word "epilepsy"...so you use it as a teasing nickname unaware of what it really means, and how it affects people's lives.
Maybe you've never known anyone with a special need before, and so when you make these comments you aren't doing them out of malice, but purely out of a desire to be funny...just not realizing the entirety of your statements.
Or maybe you really are trying to be hurtful.
I just don't know.
Let me try to explain how I feel to you, because I'm sure you are thinking that I am a crazy over-sensitive girl at this point.
If you're making a joke about disabilities, I'm pretty sure you don't have a disability yourself. So you can't possibly imagine what it is like to have one.
You can't imagine what it is like for a Deaf person to spend years in therapy learning to speak.
You can't imagine what it is like to learn your way around your world without your sight to guide you.
I know you can't imagine what it is like to be in a wheelchair all the time.
You don't know how it feels to go into an operation unsure if you will live through it.
Can you imagine going through these things, and then having to hear people make cruel jokes? I can't.
Look, I am a teenager, too. So I understand how it is to goof off with your friends and not even notice who's listening. I realize, too, that this probably accounts for 80% of the rude comments teenagers make about disabilities.
But there may be a mom whose child was recently diagnosed with a disability sitting right next to you as you laugh about that kid in your school. And you, in that one, careless moment, have confirmed all of the fears she has for her precious little child.
Our words have consequences.
I'm writing this post out of a deep pain in my heart from so many comments that have been made around me even just over the past six months.
Please think through your words before you post them to Facebook. Don't make a joke merely because you don't understand. Think about how it might look to someone who is walking that journey.
Thumper from the Disney movie Bambi gives the greatest advice ever..."If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all!"