Friday, November 13, 2009

The Simple “Mentch”....and Inclusion in the Community

I was with Ricki the other day at the dentist, in an out-patient clinic of one of the Tel Aviv hospitals. This hospital, which used to be very easy to reach by bus is now a real “pain in the neck” to reach, involving two bus rides minimum.
When we entered the clinic, I saw one other parent, waiting while her young child was being treated under general anesthetic. She was a fellow “frummie” (orthodox religious Jew), and she flashed us a smile, but I got the feeling that she would have flashed a radiant face to anyone entering. In fact, I suspected that she had definitely grinned when she saw Ricki.
Within minutes, I was sure of it. The friendly lady started trying to have a conversation with my daughter. Ricki responded with a growl and a mumbled “leave me alone”. It didn’t phase this lady. She continued asking Ricki about herself, talking about her child, , what was going on in the clinic, all in an informative yet casual way. She won Ricki over within minutes, and had her hanging on the woman’s every word. She spoke to her in a mature way, not condescending at all.
At one point she asked Ricki if she knew “Miss XYZ”, who is a 25-year old woman with Down syndrome in our community. Ricki doesn’t know this woman, but apparently the woman in the clinic (who was also about 25) does. I don’t know how, but the results were clear: she was not afraid of Ricki, and communicated casually yet clearly to her. This shows so strongly the case for inclusion in schools and the community. When people get to know teens and adults with Down syndrome (because these teens and adults are NOT buried away in a “special” environment 24 hours a day), they learn to react to them as PEOPLE, without fear... with plain common sense. And that carries over to their interactions with others with disabilities.
Now I suspect that this lady is a bit more of a “mentch” ((good person) than most are. I don’t know. But I do know that I would like to see more of people like that!

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