The warmth and graciousness experienced by my family at a Target checkout counter this past weekend still has me smiling. A cashier showed us what may seem to some as a simple kindness, but to us it was significant. Kindness is no longer something that I take for granted in today’s society.
My two sons had finally decided to spend some of their Christmas money, so we headed to Target and each of them picked out a video game. A Manager came over to assist our cashier as we checked out, and my youngest decided he wanted to talk to them. He is 9 years old, *Autistic (*not a bad word, see below), and very outgoing. He happily chatted away with the two ladies, excited about his new video game.
“You see that? That’s MY Super Mario Bros. 2 video game. I am buying it with MY own money! You wanna know how to play it? First you get some coins. And then you get some other coins. Basically it’s coins, coins, and more coins! And did I forget to mention COINS?” He really got on a roll and was having some fun joking with them.
The Manager grinned, obviously picking up on his joking. She responded, playing along, “Soooo, maybe the best thing about the game is the COINS, then?”
After we checked out she looked at me and said with a sincere smile, “Thank you for letting him talk to me! He’s a cutie!”
And just like that the scene went from heartwarming to tear-inducing, and I turned into a weepy Mom mess.
SHE said thank you. She treated my son with kindness that many would not, and then SHE thanked US for the privilege. She saw my son for the energetic, engaging, and extraordinary young man that he is.
Not everyone treats him the same as she did. Many notice his unique, although articulate, manner of speech. Not everyone appreciates his willingness to talk to strangers in a monologue about his favorite video game. Some people don’t know how to react, so they stare. Even worse, sometimes they are cruel and snicker behind his back. They assume that because he is different he is not worthy of respect. The world can be frighteningly unaccepting of those who are different in any way.
I love that my son is “different,” and that he embraces his own uniqueness. I love that he is always willing to put on a show, and that he is friendly to everyone he meets. I pray every day that the world will accept him for who is he and treat him with kindness. When we encounter people like that gracious lady at Target I feel incredibly grateful for such an experience.
She probably doesn’t even think she did anything that noteworthy, because that seemed to be the type of person that she was. She probably treats everyone with the same kindness. I don’t even know that she could tell that my son is Autistic. Even if she did, she certainly didn’t treat him with that condescending manner that so many do when they meet someone they know has special needs of some kind. She just seemed to enjoy talking to an exuberant child. It didn’t matter to her that he was unusual, because she saw his positive qualities. She seemed like she makes it a habit to accept people for who they are and not judge them. I think more people would do well to follow her lead.
Sometimes it makes me sad to live in a world that has conditioned me to be surprised when someone is NOT mean to my child when he acts slightly outside social norms. But I am also incredibly grateful that people like that manager exist, and I want to go back and thank her. I want to encourage her so she knows that the kindness she shows people MATTERS. It makes a difference.
I don’t ever want the world to take that kindness away from her.
Knowing that there are good people like HER in the world gives me hope for the future. So, friendly Target Manager, I know you thanked ME, but I REALLY want to thank YOU.
UPDATE: A cutsomer-service representative at Target responded to this article with the following message: “Thank you for sharing your compliments about your recent visit to (Target). We value the enthusiasm of our guests and want to enjoy our time with them. Your son sounds like a delight! Your description of his passion is heart-warming. – We hope to enjoy your family again soon!”
I agree, my son IS a delight! 🙂 ~Jennifer
(*Yes, I said my son is Autistic, and it is not a disrespectful term. It is how he wishes to self-identify, as do an increasing number of individuals in the Autism community. It is called “Identity-First Language.”)
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