Last weekend we were in a local supermarket and, as usual, most people either ignored me in my wheelchair or tried not to stare while staring none the less. I am used to it now and with my sight loss I don't even see it happening, but it really bothers Rachel who gets wound up by the behaviour.
But she and I were reminded just how lovely some people can be when two little boys (probably about 3 and 5 years old) ran up to me
"Excuse me, excuse me; why are you in a yellow chair?"
"Because if I tried to walk like you I'd fall over quite quickly"
"How does it work?"
"I use this joystick to go forward and backwards and left and right"
"Can we have a go?"
"Sorry no, that's not safe, but you can press the horn button if you want"
So they pressed the horn button
And then their mum emerged
"No boys, no, don't touch, come away, come on"
I reassured her
"They are fine"
"Boys, come away, stop bothering her"
she said without actually speaking to me.
And off they went chatting about how clever my wheelchair is.
Rachel and I were so happy to have had this interaction with the boys; it is just wonderful to be able to talk to people and answer the questions they are bound to have. Rachel summed it up perfectly
"Young kids aren't scared about asking but when they grow up they learn (wrongly) that they mustn't ask because it's rude. But then they just stare because they are still curious."
She's so wise. Our curiosity about difference doesn't diminish as we get older, it's just that societal norms tell us we shouldn't ask about people's personal business. And of course there might be people who don't want to be asked; but I'd much rather have a conversation with people, especially friendly kids, than be stared at or ignored.
So if you ever see me out this is my permission
in fact it's an invitation
to ask me anything you want,
And please don't ever rush your kids away,
they might just be the highlight of my day.