Living 35 years of my life having a brother with a disability has made me embrace the things I can’t change. Being the sibling of a brother with a disability has taught me many life lessons, and one of those lessons I’m sharing today in this blog. There is one thing that all families who have a child/sibling with a disability have experienced more often than not…….People who stare.
When they notice a difference in the people around them, they stare. When they observe or hear a different form of communication, they stare. When they observe someone doing an action that looks different than how they perform that same action, they stare.
When I was younger I would feel uncomfortable when I would notice people staring at my brother and me. I felt as if we were on display, and they were judging. I allowed insecurities seep in because as a child their stares confirmed for me we were different. Then when their stares didn’t follow up with a “Hello”, I felt our differences made people scared to talk to us. Confirming again my childhood thoughts that our differences weren’t okay. So, they just stared!
I wanted to write a blog to help my reader understand how I flipped the script. How changing how I viewed people staring, changed me. Changing my thought process became a gift that built my career around supporting those with disabilities. Allow me to share…….
By flipping the script in my head, it changed everything. Here is my new script:
When people stare they are not judging. They stare in awe of God’s work.
When people stare they are not judging. They stare to learn how they should interact.
When people stare they are not judging. They stare to gain understanding and respect.
When people stare they are not judging. They stare to learn empathy and appreciation for the blessings in their life.
When people stare they are not judging. They stare because it’s the first time they have observed pure love between two people.
What I have learned is when people stare it isn’t always negative, although over the years it was hard not to think that way.
Instead people staring at my brother and me, became my platform. A platform of modeling exactly how someone with a disability should be treated. In that moment I am the teacher and the person staring is my student. I started looking forward to the staring, because it provided me with opportunities to teach and share my passion and love for those with disabilities.
Those of us that claim ourselves as advocates need to do more embracing of the stares, because those stares our eyes of a curious person. When a person is curious, their viewpoints and perception are open to be changed and I want to be the person that changes it for them.
When I was younger my self-talk made me think people staring was about my brother and me. Now that I’m older, I believe that when people stare it’s really about them. As an advocate and educator, I don’t want people to look the other way, because I will lose the audience for a teaching moment.
When you stare at my brother and me, here is what you will see:
- Unconditional love
- Understanding of a world that is different
- Patience that grew through the hard times
- A warrior willing to protect until his death
- A life-long teacher
And most importantly you will see a brother who thinks his sister is the best person in the world, and a sister who knows her brother is her entire world.
I welcome you to stare because I will teach you some of life’s most precious blessings: love and acceptance
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