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Don’t Stare, Say Hello

A few months ago, my husband and I were working on a home project that involved tearing down some walls. Behind one of the walls, there was insulation wrapped in an old newspaper. The paper was dated May 6, 1948. We stopped to take time to read some of the articles, and I found one to be particularly interesting.

It was an article titled, “Boy Mute, 8, Flying for Operation.” The article talked about a “mute boy” who was getting to go on a plane ride. They hoped by sending him on this ride, it would encourage others with “speech defects.” The article made me stop and think about how far we as a society have come in relation to our conversation about people with disabilities. There have been great strides in educating people on what disabilities are, how people who have disabilities are people first, and even in the most recent years, replacing the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disabilities.”

When we celebrate Developmental Disabilities in March, it isn’t the diagnosis we celebrate; it’s the people. We celebrate people’s differences, their abilities, and their accomplishments. Each person’s accomplishments mean something different, as each person’s challenges are different. For some it may be that they can walk, for some it is that they can talk, and for others it is that they were able to find a meaningful job they love. Those are things to be celebrated each and every day, which is why the article hidden in my wall is so important. It helps us remember to celebrate accomplishments, not a label on that young boy. While we have made strides in the right direction, we still have much further to go in order for people to truly feel accepted and considered a valuable, contributing member of their community.

I had my first child in January of 2018, and I often ponder about how I will teach him about disabilities. We recently shared a post on our Facebook page that read: “Instead of ‘Don’t stare.’ Let’s start teaching ‘Say hello.'” What a simple idea. What if we all ‘said hello’ to everyone we meet? To anyone different than us? We would be one step closer to remembering that people are people first, and having a disability is just a part of what makes each of us unique.

Next time you are in a situation where you think, “Don’t stare”, instead turn, smile, and say “Hello.” We all can play a part in the world changing their attitudes about people with disabilities, which is something to be celebrated.


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