Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Something has been bothering me but I couldn't put my finger on it until we heard the story of the good Samaritan. Not that I'm the good Samaritan, but... well, the story.

My daughter is going into a new grade at school. Word got out from a stay-at-home mom that the teachers had been posted. My daughter had the same teacher as the mom's daughter; then we emailed back and forth about another friend, wondering whose class she was in. And then came the comment "and I really like her family, too." Huh? That just struck me as odd. Perhaps it was just one of those offhand comments that I might have said, but it followed a couple other interesting comments, so that's why the "huh?". I never thought of considering whether I like a kid based on their family, unless it was subconscious.

So I thought back to when I was a kid and I made friends with a girl who everyone picked on. Her family lived "across the tracks." She was behind in school and the teacher picked on her too. But for whatever reason, she and I were friends. I wanted her to come to my birthday party so my mom had to pick her up (not sure why). She came a bit early and had a snack. She was more thankful than any other kid and insisted on drinking all of her orange juice as she wouldn't want to waste any. Eventually she moved, but we remained friends via mail for quite a few years later. My parents never seemed bothered by where she lived or who her parents were. So perhaps that's another reason I found the comment strange.

In another scenerio in elementary school I bonded with a girl who had Downs syndrome. Brief memories there, but I remember there was a pole, so easy to slide down - everyone could do it without thinking - but her. Somehow we bonded and eventually I coaxed her down that pole.

And this story goes along with another comment on having to have kids with special needs in the same classroom as those without. Oh no! Isn't it horrible that kids might learn acceptance of other kids who are a little "different?" I know they require extra attention - but perhaps there are better life lessons there than taking a math test. And it may be hard when there is more than one in the class. But, I think it can be done.

A mom outreached to me recently in a state of almost panic. Her daughter is a teenager but needs daycare because of her disability. No one was taking her. The mom was about to be forced on leave to care for her daughter. I connected with a friend of mine and they worked it out. I get other calls of semi-panic where someone can't find who will help them. I've been there and been lucky. Why it has to get to panic stage I don't know.

I'm sure there were plenty of times growing up when I didn't play the role of befriending the stranger and was instead mean, and times now when I miss it. I'll forever question what I should have done when I encountered a woman with anorexia; I wanted to help, didn't know her, felt it wasn't my place, and am left wondering.... And the point of the good Samaritan is not just befriending someone who needs a friend, but in the story, the enemy is the one who helps the one who is in trouble. I'm not dealing with enemies. And I may be the one who is ignorant and says "I like her family too."

But I think kids can and should be friends with so many other kids, and it shouldn't be based on the family of the kid. Perhaps school is the one place where a kid escapes a bad situation at home. Sad, but what if they find a friend at school and the two of them share happiness that doesn't exist everywhere? And what if that carries them forward in life somehow?

I go through McDonalds a lot in the mornings for coffee. A woman started working there and I wondered how long she would last as she was just goofing off and doing, well, not much. But she changed - she and I had brief conversations. Soon she went into management. And the other day she told me she's going back to school, starting with her GED. That is great. Someone saw her potential, and I bet she can do it. Maybe no one made a difference earlier in her life, but perhaps now someone has.

We all need to look beyond those "railroad tracks," me included. There's beauty over there. There's a whole lot of potential. Add opportunity. Really, the people on both sides look very much the same.

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