We have just arrived home from a quick bite out for lunch. It was at a small restaurant not too far away. We love the food and the atmosphere – usually. Today it was quiet and relatively slow but one table made up of four people, started to chat rather loudly after they finished eating. Of course this is par for dining out – it’s what people do – they eat, they talk, then they carry on with their day.
But this conversation – it hit home. It enraged me. I almost pulled up a chair to their table to figure out the nuances of it because I wanted to verbally bitch slap the woman with the short brown hair into 2014.
The table was comprised of two adult women and two obviously teenaged boys. They appeared to be brothers. One was probably mid-late teens with the other one just getting started. The younger one had a speech impediment. It was not at all horrific, it just made him sound as if he had an accent of sorts. In fact, that’s what I thought it was at first until I listened closer. While I hate this analogy, he sounded like Elmer Fudd but with obviously deeper issues than just his mispronunciation of an “r”.
The conversation was innocuous at first – discussing swimming, school work, etc. Then it turned to this young man’s speech.
The adult woman with the brown hair, we’ll call her Hilda for the sake of saving me from typing a lot more than necessary, laid into this poor young man for his speech. “You’re going to have a hard time getting a job..yadda yadda yadda… you should try harder, if you just don’t move your tongue… maybe if you did yadda yadda yadda..I can barely understand what he says most of the time.” You get the drift.
Hilda kept on at him.
He defended himself.
She kept going.
He KEPT defending himself. Finally he asked where the bathroom was and left. I ALMOST went over when he left but decided that IF I did anything, I wanted him to be there when I did it so he would KNOW that people are willing to stand up for him and not everyone is going to tear him down.
But I didn’t.
I let the ball of anger grow in my heart, this rage for this young boy who was being attacked within earshot of me by someone I assumed to be his caretaker (mother, aunt, whatever.. she was obviously close to him). I just sat there and eventually J gave me the keys to the van so I could leave and as I did, I overheard Hilda ask the boy to say “Girls.”
He said, “Goils.”
“Now, say it again but don’t move your tongue.”
“There! I think it sounds better without you moving your tongue.”
Only there was no noted difference.
I muttered, loudly under my breath as I left, “What, are you some sort of SPEECH THERAPIST? JEEZ, lady!”
This evil woman. This sorry excuse for a human being is making this poor boy think that he is going to LOSE at life because of his speech impediment. She is setting him up for failure before he EVEN GETS STARTED AT LIFE IN THE BIG WORLD. I left without doing anything. I LEFT WITHOUT SHOWING HIM THAT PEOPLE WILL STAND UP FOR YOU.
I should have said something. I should have told him that as long as he is doing the best he can with what he has, that’s all anyone should ever expect of him. Of course we all want to strive to be better. As a mother with a daughter who has her own speech issues due to a cleft palate, I should have stood up and fought for him against this horrible monster. I have seen the strength it takes to pronounce a single sound when your mouth isn’t built quite right and know the complexities involved in forming what we take for granted in perfect pronunciations. So he has a lisp or an impediment. Big deal. He’s still an awesome kid and doing the BEST HE DAMN WELL CAN. Recognize that. Build THAT up. Don’t tear it down because that? That is not helping.
Don’t assume because someone talks differently that they are stupid. Don’t assume that they are idiots or that they can’t talk right simply because YOU cannot understand them. The issue there – with not understanding them – is YOURS, not theirs. FOR THEY ARE COMMUNICATING THE BEST THEY CAN WITH WHAT THEY HAVE. Are you listening the best you can with what you have? Are you merely listening to what they are saying or are you striving to actually HEAR what they have to say beyond what may originally sound like garble to you?
For the record, I understood EVERY single word this young man said and I wasn’t even sitting across the table from him as Hilda was doing. His speech impediment isn’t that bad in my opinion. But according to the way Hilda discussed it, you’d think it was some horrific “he will never be able to communicate with the world at large” issue. Only it is not that way at all.
In my humble opinion, Hilda is the one with the impediment because she fails to see the beautiful, driven, dedicated young man who is fighting with all his might to communicate with others. She fails to see that he is already miles ahead of her emotionally because instead of tearing her down in response, he simple defended himself.
I should have said something. So instead, because I didn’t stand up then, I am writing about it now. Maybe this is the coward’s way out. But I could be quiet here too – quiet on a platform I have at my fingertips. When someone else is being torn apart and there is something you can do, you shouldn’t just walk away. I failed. But I am writing this because I want to apologize for walking away and hopefully inspire someone else to NOT follow in my footsteps.
If we all stood up for those who are caught in the sights of a bully (like Hilda), the world would be a far more awesome place and maybe the bullies would think twice before attacking someone and tearing them down.