We Are All In This Together

Be kind Michelle

“Be Kind, We’re All In This Together” is a motto of the Seriously Not Boring page because I don’t think we should ever underestimate the power of compassion and community. As a neurodivergent person and the mother of an autistic child I know firsthand the importance of support and accommodation from allies. The world can be an overwhelming place for anyone, so when we find people who are willing to reach out a hand and walk alongside us during the unexpected twists of our journey it is a welcome gift. I recently met one such individual, Michelle, the awesome lady in this picture who went out of her way to help me and my son. She made such an impression that I thought you should meet her.

Before I tell you the story let me be clear that I am not talking about standard courtesy and respect. I never applaud people for treating my son with basic human dignity or even for showing him kindness. He, and everyone else, deserves no less than that. No one should be made to feel like they are a hero somehow simply for being friends with or kind to a person with a disability. What I am talking about are those times we see an intentional, extravagantly helpful, go-out-of-your way act of support.

So, back to our story.  My son has limited food options due the sensory issues related to autism. Change can also be overwhelming for him. For years he has relied on a specific store brand of nutritional supplement drinks to help meet his dietary needs. Occasionally I can’t find the item on the shelf and end up at customer service in search of this highly-needed, highly-preferred staple of my son’s diet. Michelle and others have helped me with that in the past. In general every time I have seen Michelle at the front counter she is hardworking and patient, even when faced with challenging customers or complicated requests.

Two weeks ago when I walked into the warehouse store because we were almost out of the shakes at home. Imagine my concern when the boxes were not only missing from the shelf, but their designated slot had been reassigned as well. I rushed to the front and asked Michelle if she could assist me because she had been so helpful in the past. I knew she was familiar with the product. Little did I know that she was already supposed to be off the clock and was about to leave when I walked up. Michelle took one look at me, paused for only a second, and then went to work her magic. Friendly and patient as always, she took the time to look up everything she could to find out more about the missing product. She then radioed for the person in charge of ordering and stocking, waited for them to come talk with us, and also called the supplier. They all confirmed my worst fears. The item was not just out of stock, it was, *gasp*, DISCONTINUED. <DUNdaDUNNNN>

This news made me a bit emotional, I’m going to be honest. There I was, standing at the customer service desk with tears in my eyes and panic in my heart, hoping someone could help us. A parent of a child with preferred foods or an adult similarly affected might understand my feelings. Continue reading

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Teen’s YouTube Channel Hacked by a Bully, Google Comes to the Rescue

13-year-old Thomas has a passion for technology and animation. For years he has worked on his YouTube Channel, creating content and uploading videos. Imagine his shock and heartbreak when he discovered one day that everything on his channel had been deleted, and that all those hours of hard work had been reduced to nothing. Even more upsetting was the eventual revelation that the videos had been deleted by a classmate, one that Thomas had considered a friend.

When Thomas was younger he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Children on the Autism Spectrum are unfortunately often a target of bullying, and Thomas has experienced that firsthand on multiple occasions. Usually Thomas just ignores the negative treatment and tries to believe the best in people. He never dreamed that a friend would be so cruel as to deliberately erase all of his hard work. It eventually came to light that this child had been periodically bullying Thomas all year, but Thomas still tried to forgive and befriend him.

The moment Thomas told his parents about the deleted account they sprung into action. At first the deleted YouTube content seemed unrecoverable, so his father posted about it on LinkedIn:   Continue reading

In a Nation (and world) Divided, Kindness Matters

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The country in which I live is reeling from an unprecedented and divisive Presidential election. Are we going to drown in the wake of hatred that threatens to overcome our land? I beg you to be kind to one another. Now, maybe more than ever, we desperately need it.

There are people in the United States and beyond who are hurting and afraid. This includes religious and ethnic minorities, the LGBT community, people with disabilities, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, or even anyone who has felt different or mocked or had their rights oppressed. Many of them are feeling vulnerable, and those feelings should not be dismissed. Even if your vote was different from theirs I would encourage you to treat them with compassion and respect and make an attempt to understand their concerns.

When the pinnacle of a country’s power is attained by a person who openly acts unkind (I can make a list of examples, I just choose not to) it makes you wonder if the people in that country value kindness. For any of us who have ever been discriminated against or felt “other”-ed by those with power, it makes us sad and uncomfortable.

We are not just afraid because of who won the election, we are also afraid of how we will be treated by those we encounter in day-to-day life. Judging by accounts I have read it is apparent those fears are valid.

Story after story has emerged of individuals being subjected to hateful treatment by their fellow human beings, and it began even before the final votes were tallied.

Earlier in the week a young man in a wheelchair attended a Trump rally to protest, saying “I wanted to go because Donald J. Trump made fun of disabled people.” The Washington Post reports that as he and his Mother were escorted out, “Trump supporters near them started pushing her son’s wheelchair, and calling her a ‘child abuser’ and telling others to ‘grab her p—y’.”

As a mother and a member of the disability community this horrifies me. Did his choice to exercise his right to make a peaceful protest warrant such treatment?

Stories are pouring in. They run the gamut of intensity from snide, insulting comments, all the way to physical violence and destruction of property. Many of the stories are directly connected to people I know or their friends.

A friend of my sister shared that the day of the election one of her children’s black classmates was asked by another student, “Are you packed yet?”

Jennifer Boyle, an extended family member who teaches in a Denver public school, shared this disturbing encounter endured by one of her students:

“A, a 16 year-old black female, told me she was spit on this morning by a white male Trump supporter on her walk to school. After he spit on her he ripped the Hillary sticker off her backpack. No bystander, of which there were many, intervened”.

Jennifer also wrote of the myriad of emotions experienced by her students the morning after the election: Continue reading

Why Some “Good Deed” Stories Can Do More Harm Than Good

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Another day, another “feel-good” story. But what if these stories actually do more harm than good? Before you judge me for being cynical, let me explain.

What often happens is there is a person who has some sort of disability and they might also need some assistance. Then some “typical” person decides to be kind and help them. Usually that’s fine. Great even. We should reach out to our fellow humans. The world needs more genuine compassion and caring.

Sometimes a third-party happens to witness the scene, and interprets it as the grand gesture of an amazingly generous individual who took their time to help out a poor, pitiable and helpless disabled person. Then pictures are taken without asking the permission of all the parties involved, because they want to spread the amazing, feel-good story throughout all kinds of news outlets and social media platforms. Still sound great?

There is nothing inherently wrong with positive stories about people with disabilities or tales of good deeds. It’s the motivation behind it or the way the subject is handled that can be problematic. Sometimes the individual performing the good deed or telling the story does so with motives other than just being kind to someone else; sometimes they do it for notoriety.

In other cases I don’t doubt that the overall intention of the story tellers was good, yet somehow things took a turn. Often that is the fault of the tactics used by the media, who love a heart-tugging, viral story. News sources often spread these “feel-good” messages at the expense of the dignity of their subjects, presenting the person with a disability as merely a pawn in someone else’s story. It is designed to make US, not them, “feel good,” and praises and elevates the person performing the “good deed.” These stories do all that at the expense of the recipient, often without their consent. Stories like this are commonly referred to as “Inspiration Porn.” Continue reading

Love is the Sweetest Gift: Williams Syndrome, Unconditional Love, and Acts of Kindness Week

 

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It is still Acts of Kindness Week! Today we have a guest post from Claire, who is the mother a young man who spreads joy all year long to those he meets. Kannan also has Williams Syndrome, which seems to help him look past the things that may cause others to make assumptions or have feelings of prejudice. Instead, Kannan has the ability to look right into someone’s soul and love them unconditionally. This year he received a very special Valentine’s gift from an unexpected source; two admirers and new friends who wished to show their appreciation for his enthusiasm and acceptance. Here’s what Kannan’s mother has to say:

Kannan has always had an effect on people. I’ll never forget the day my doorbell rang and I opened it to find a lady standing at my door with a box of red popsicles. I recognized her from my son’s school and I knew red popsicles were my son’s favorite treat. My son, Kannan, was in early elementary school at the time. Apparently he had made quite an impression on her! A year or so later my doorbell rang again, and I opened it to find a man standing there with a wrapped gift in his hand. He also worked at Kannan’s school, and was bringing him a birthday gift. It was a digital watch and he explained he thought it would help Kannan learn to tell time.

Kannan is now in middle school and recently he came home with an unexpected gift; Continue reading