Monday, 11th February 2013
FOR THE LOVE OF MILO - Perhaps you’ve seen this story since it first broke last month. In a popular family restaurant a waiter refused to serve a family because they were overheard making inappropriate comments about another family in the restaurant who happened to have a child with Down Syndrome. The public was sharply divided with emotions high on this very sensitive subject, citing numerous reasons why the waiter should be fired, while others hailed him as a “defender of the disabled.” Watch the following video as it recaps the original circumstances and then continues the story with an unexpected and positive outcome.
No matter which side of the fence you were on when this story was released, you cannot argue that what had caused a heated public debate has now turned the tide creating awareness and understanding that can unite us all. As a mother of three sons, all with disabilities, I can tell you that when they were young the public was not kind. Disapproving looks when we went to dinner or out shopping became all too familiar and as a parent you never grow numb to it. Our most comfortable public place became the hospital where we went weekly for therapy and doctor visits. That was 20 years ago and it saddens me that we have not come any further in our treatment of children or people with disabilities.
Oh sure, we have been mainstreaming in our schools those children within acceptable ranges and this was supposed to help our next generation be more accepting of people with differing abilities. There are more buildings equipped with handicap accessible features and Hollywood has added characters to their movies and TV shows with disabilities, in an attempt to show the general population that there is a place for everyone.
Has anything really changed where it matters, in the heart? Over the years I learned not to take offense when people would walk around my family, or choose not to sit near us in a restaurant. It was hard when they stared or whispered under their breath words I was only too grateful my children couldn’t understand. I know what it feels like to be around people who make you uncomfortable because they are different, but it doesn’t make it any easier or hurt any less when it is you or someone you love.
What do you think when you see a handicapped child? Most people look at a disabled child as one who is broken, or not complete. They picture a life that will never be fulfilling for the child and possibly as a burden to the family they are born into. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, this child may need to do things differently to get them done and there will be some things they will never be able to do; but any child I have known with a disability does not give up. They find a way to do what needs done and learn new ways of expressing themselves to be understood. They are brave, strong and fiercely independent. Above all, every disabled child I have known has had unlimited love for others. I wish that for all of us.
As an adult and a parent of adult children with disabilities, I applaud Michael Garcia and the way the media has handled what has happened. Together, he and Milo have a message to share that is being heard around the world. A message that needs repeated and re-inforced often.
Until we have the ability to see all people as unique and accept them as such, we will forever be limited in our own lives.