Questions from a reviewer of Trapped.
Fran, please tell my how I should act when, next time, I come across someone with a disability.
Don’t tell me to just say, “hi”, as I normally don’t say, “hi” to strangers. So this wouldn’t be natural behavior.—Should I smile? Yet couldn’t it be that the person takes my smile for charity?
And how should I act when I meet a disabled person at a social gathering? There it would be normal to say, “hi”, yet at what point, if at all, should I mention the disability, and what can I say that’s neither hurtful, nor annoying, nor tactless?
The first thing I would say is that there is a danger, when we meet someone with a disability – or anyone whom we might consider ‘disadvantaged’ – that we complicate matters too much. Our anticipation of problems, and of judgement can have us thinking around in circles and tying ourselves in knots before we’ve even said or done anything, which is not a comfortable place to be.
It is normal, when we pass someone on a quiet avenue, to greet them, to say, ‘hello’, smile politely, ‘doff one’s cap’ and walk on. Some societies expect greetings between strangers. Then, a standard response, something like, ‘’jour ’sieur’ is merely a tactful acknowledgement that a person we are passing, exists. It grounds one in being, to be acknowledged. Such small pleasantries can make all the difference between having a horrible day and a good one, especially for one who is habitually cast as ‘disadvantaged’.
If we are simultaneously worrying that (a) we wouldn’t normally greet people, or (b) that our greetee might be offended, we are probably giving a passing moment too much thought. If we don’t normally greet people, perhaps now is our chance. Maybe we have a new opportunity to step up, and challenge ourselves to do something different. (Doing something differently doesn’t make us any less sincere or genuine.)
Since reading that the worst thing about being homeless is the way that some people walk past, their eyes raised aloft and fixed in the middle distance, as if there is no homeless person sitting near them on the sidewalk, I make eye contact and say Hello, even if I don’t have a couple of coins to offer.
Anyone who thinks that a simple greeting is an act of charity needs to get out more, imvho. In any case, it’s not what you do, but the way that you do it….
To be continued. Thanks for reading.