Today my mom told me a story that absolutely broke my heart. She was ordering a coffee at the drive through at Dunkin' Donuts. After taking her order, the employee must have left her headset on by accident and said "What is she, some sort of retard?"
My mother is not a retard.
My mother is brave.
My mother is strong.
My mother is beautiful.
My mother has ALS.
In September 2010 my mother was diagnosed with one of the most horrific diseases imaginable. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease) has no known cause, or cure. It is a (usually) quick progressing disease that robs people of being able to control their motor skills and leaves to eventual death. Of course it is much more than this, and I hope to bring more awareness to the general public about ALS in future blog posts.
There are two primary types of ALS. The less common is a Bulbar onset, and this is the type my mom has. What this means is my mom's symptoms have started with her losing control over the mobility of her tongue and she often times had difficultly speaking clearly and swallowing. Many times, especially when she is tired her speech is a bit slurred.
She just finished hosting friends from California for almost a week. That means she spent the week talking more than normal, engaging in more activities than she normally would and was all around just more tired. Let's face it, we're all tired after we have house guests, but for my mom it's a more difficult recovery.
So when my mom ordered her coffee today, I'm sure her speech was slurred. And the last thing she needed to hear was some drive through worker calling her a retard - even if it wasn't meant for her to hear.
I immediately went into a tirade saying she should have demanded to speak with the store manager. But my mother took another route. She looked the woman right in the face (woman, not teenager) and said "No, I am not a retard. I have a disease which affects my speech." and left it at that. She said the woman's face turned beat red and then she drove away.
The thing is, that woman may have felt embarrassed or bad for a few minutes and then I'm sure her day continued. But for my mom, I know those words will stick with her. And with me.
I'm definitely guilty of saying things I don't mean - or don't mean literally, however I've decided to make it a priority from this point forward to try and make a change. Calling people names, no matter how innocent, is not ok. You never know how it will be interpreted and who you will hurt in the process.
What about you? Have you ever been in a situation where someone called you a name that upset you, or inadvertently said something that hurt someone else? I'd love to hear from you.