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Simple Gifts

photoSometimes it’s the small moments that catch our breath.

Over the weekend, Schuyler and I found ourselves wandering the mall aimlessly. We ended up at one of those little candy stores where you bag your own haul and they weigh it and charge you a stupid amount of money. If you want to enjoy the experience, you have to know and accept that going in; I won’t even share how much we paid for a bag of gummy worms, or how very little time it took us to eat them all.

At the front of the store, Schuyler gravitated to these little big-eyed stuffed animals that she loves. She picked out the ones she liked the most and asked if she could get one. I said we would see, because even though we both know better, it is nevertheless extremely important that I at least pretend that the answer might occasionally be “no”. We wandered to the back of the store to check out, well, larger versions of the big-eyed animals. (It really is impossible to win with these things in the store.)

As we stood there looking at the animals, I felt someone tap on my arm. I turned to see a young girl, maybe two or three years old than Schuyler. She shyly held out a big-eyed stuffed panda to Schuyler.

“I was standing outside the window and I saw her looking at this one,” she said, “so I bought it for her.”

Schuyler’s face fell into a huge smile as she took the panda. “Thank you!” she said, over and over.

“Wow,” I said. “That was incredibly nice of you. Thank you so much!”

“Did I hear you call her Schuyler?” she asked. “My name is Skye.”

We chatted for a few more moments, and then she was on her way with her little posse of teenaged girls, the kind of pack that I would normally, perhaps shamefully, expect to giggle and make snide comments about my daughter. These girls were just as fashion-conscious, just as chattery, just as teenaged-girly as anyone else at the mall. Maybe they weren’t so different from other neurotypical girls as I might imagine. It is entirely possible that for every mean girl out there, there’s a polar opposite. Perhaps there are more Skyes in the world than I have dared to hope.

I’m not sure what caught this girl’s eye about Schuyler, or what made her want to reach out like she did. Some might say it was pity, but I don’t know, it feels more complicated than that to me, and more positive. As parents of kids with disabilities, we grow accustomed by experience and by our own defensive impulses to steel ourselves against a world that we think mostly sees how our kids are broken. We forget that there is kindness in the world as well. Kindness, and the ability to see the qualities that shine vibrantly behind disability.

Curiosity doesn’t always accompany scorn. If we can just remember that and maybe drop our guard a little, just a very very little, we may find ourselves receiving unexpected gifts, and not the kind you can necessarily buy in a candy store.

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