Once a week I take my sons’ out to a special breakfast, since there are really only two quick breakfast options here, McDonald’s or Dunkin Donuts, we usually end up at Dunkin Donuts. Every week, on the same day, we venture in and choose our regular menu options and sit while we wait for the breakfast sandwiches to be made. Each week the same customers are in that facility, there is this one special needs adult who is slightly older than me, if my memory recalls properly, and he is the most social man ever! Usually this man says hi to me or something random in the form of basic social chit chat between strangers, I am assuming he is special needs based on my observations and in addition to that he is difficult for my sons’ to understand.
One particular morning this young man caught me as I walked by his table, put his hand up in the air as if he wanted me to high five him, so I said “oh okay” and put my hand in the air. Then the guy says “Say GO” and he yells go wicked loud. I replied with hand in the air awaiting this high five “GO”, the man yelled GO louder and so I assumed I didn’t say GO loud enough, so I said it louder. Then it happened, I got a high five from this man who I don’t even know, he slapped me a hard high five and then pretends it hurt, smiling and happy as can be, I simply loved that moment. He was so happy in this one particular, simple moment for someone to high five him and find humor in what he found humor in.
When we left, my 8 year old son asked me, “Mama how can you understand what he says?”
I simply replied, “Well Aj I believe this man has special needs and I do agree that his voice is hard to understand, but I simply listen a bit harder and open my ears a bit more. Then only then can you really understand what he is saying.”
After my reply to Aj I realized that in that moment with this young man at Dunkin Donuts and my explanation of how you can better understand someone who has a different speech than you, that I taught my sons’ a lesson. In this one brief moment with a complete stranger, I was teaching my sons’ how to be good listeners, socially friendly and accepting of people different than you. My heart warmed and a smile came upon my face. Remember, Aj is special needs his own self, in a way that isn’t obvious in his speech or physical appearance, to Aj he is just like everyone else, he is a bright 8 year old boy. I am betting this young man, the one who gave me a happy high five, feels the same about himself because he has been loved and cared for, the way we all should be!
Do you ever stop and listen to complete strangers randomly in stores or restaurants?