I must be famous! More and more people are staring at me. No matter where I go I catch people looking at me. When I catch them, some quickly turn their heads, hoping I didn’t see them, while others stare back with brazen boldness. Is my zipper down? I know it isn’t my new haircut. And then I remember! I have a feeding tube jammed down my left nostril, making me look like Mr. Snorkle.
I am quickly reminded of how people would stare at David as he blindly navigated with his cane or as he would say something bizarre or at times inappropriate. Children, teens, and adults would stare, point, or even sometimes say something about my son, making me angry at their insensitivity and rudeness. And now it is my turn.
I have decided I have too many other health issues and concerns than to be bothered by someone staring at me. So I choose to give them grace, I give them the benefit of the doubt that their stare is one of compassion and concern, not one of judgment. It is a day-by-day, moment by moment decision to extend them grace. Sometimes it is easy, but there are times it is the last thing I want to extend. When I extend grace and attempt to enter into their world, I am no longer so bothered by the stare or the side-wise glance. I realize I look funny, different, out of the ordinary. This of course draws people’s attention. So I extend grace. Often I will simply smile back at them, catching them off guard. This almost always produces a smile or even an over zelous “hi” or “have a nice day!”
So what do you do when someone stares at you or your child? How do you extend grace? What has been helpful for you?
I found the following online and thought it would be helpful for anyone who may encounter a differently-abled person, and you don’t know how to react. Here are some tips:
1. Understand that people feel uncomfortable when you stare. Think about how it would make you feel if someone stares at you.
2. Don’t let your curiosity get the best of you. Before you stare or ask a question, think about how many times that person must have answered the same question from people who were just as curious as you. Be empathetic and give them a break.
3. Recognize that the person you are staring at is first and foremost, a person. As such, they are defined by qualities greater than their physical difference, no matter how different they may appear. Would you like to be defined by your wide waist or your knocked knees?
4. If you make eye contact with the person you were staring at, you can always smile to ease the awkwardness. You would be surprised at how powerful a smile can be! You may even gain a friend.
Each of us is unique. If we try to really see each other beyond the superficial, we will discover how much we all have in common. I think that’s a cause for celebration.
Disability and Staring: How I Overcome this Rude Behavior, https://www.hi-us.org/disability_and_staring_how_i_overcome_this_rude_behavior