Firstly, let me out myself. I listen to CBC Radio 1. I love their interview and idea programs like Quirks and Quarks, Ideas and Sunday Magazine. If I’m in the car by myself it’s CBC time. If the girls are with me it’s the music of today. It is that forced exposure to modern music that has made me as cool as I am. Do they still say “cool”?
This morning I had the good fortune to listen to an interview of Lauren McNamera an education researcher who had hearing impairment as a child. She made one comment that has stayed in my mind (even to the extent that I didn’t listen to the sermon in church - like that’s never happened before).
She said of recess at elementary school that the best thing about recess was being with your friends. And that the worst thing about recess was having no friends. She detailed how her hearing impairment isolated her at school and made her the object of ridicule by other kids. And how that impacted her and how long it took her to deal with that in later life.
I always think of myself as someone who tries to do the right thing. But I can’t avoid the memory of a boy in my elementary school in the small northern Ontario Mining town in which I grew up who was ridiculed constantly for being extremely uncoordinated (dyspraxia) and having an odd smell. Did I mention that he also played the bagpipes? The word “itis” was attached to the end of his last name and he was taunted in the playground mercilessly often to tears, by many of his class mates. Sometimes including me. Not often by me, but a couple of times. Even though I occasionally played with him. Even though I could see how cruel this was. But I preferred to be one of the taunters than one of the taunted. Being part of the group that taunted was a form of acceptance. Doing the right thing was not.
I am a work in progress. I am no longer an eight year old seeking acceptance by sharing the cruelty of a peer group. But that does not excuse the impact of that shared cruelty on that boy. I sometimes wonder how his life has developed and whether he overcame that early unnecessary impediment to being a secure accepted person.
My eleven year old son Adam on numerous occasions has stood up for kids at school being ridiculed or bullied. His only fight to date was to pull someone off of his buddy Jugandeep . He is offended in hearing negative comments about the race, orientation, appearance etc of other people and kids. His attitudes are so much better than mine at his age. Not to sound like I’m bragging about him, he does apparently swear like a sailor when no adults are around. We are working on that. But I want to be more like Adam.
What is my point this Sunday afternoon? That we need to be more accepting of everyone. Even people that make us uncomfortable. We need to build a culture of acceptance. In families. In schools. In workplaces. In communities. Even on Facebook. But I compare a young Adam to a young Gerry and I see huge progress. Be more like Adam.
This post has been Adam approved so that I am not invading his privacy
Photo by Pamela Palmer