Monday, October 21, 2013

October, 2011 Down Syndrome Awareness Month... Day 19

Our words matter...

Jon and I are away from home, but not away from the world. As we were enjoying dinner last night (Helen's in Ellsworth, ME has the very BEST lobster rolls), I heard someone exclaim "oh, that's so retarded".

I hear that a lot... "you're such a retard" or "what a retard". Then there's the latest... taking off the 're' and just calling people a 'tard'. Does that make people feel less mean when they do that?

Have you ever said any of those? Do your kids use that word?

Now before you stop reading because you think I'm pointing fingers, let me make an admission. That word has been on the tip of my tongue (when referring to my husband) on many occasions... even in the last 8 years! (I never claimed to be perfect, just changed).

And, if you admitted to using that word you're probably now justifying it by saying "yeah, I say that but I don’t mean it to be hurtful”?

Well, that may be true but let me assure you, it IS hurtful. It hurts my heart to hear that word used in a derogatory manner… even if you’re only referring to a toaster!!

Jon says I need to develop thicker skin. He’s probably 100% correct and I HAVE tried to get over it, because it's everywhere. I’ve heard it at Wal-Mart, at the schools and even within my own family. Jon says he hears it daily at work. The kids tell me it’s just part of everyday speech at school.

But just because it’s everywhere, doesn’t make it right… or any less hurtful.

I’m not afraid of the word… I’m not afraid that Josh has mental retardation… not at all. That’s who he is… it’s a part of him… I’m okay with him being mentally retarded, mentally challenged, developmentally challenged and/or developmentally delayed... whatever the politically correct term of the week is… but when I hear it used outside of a doctor’s office, it makes me want to cry.

I’m not brave however. I have only ever confronted anyone once, and that was from behind the safety of my computer screen. It was a friend of Caleb’s on facebook and HE didn’t even say the word… a friend of his did. I commented on it and we discussed it… he ended up deleting the thread

Someday I hope to be brave enough to comment when I hear it in public… but I know not everyone is as gracious as the boy on facebook. If they are using the word loudly, in public, chances are they would tell me right where to get off. Yeah, I lack in bravery.

People ask why that particular word bothers me so much and I can’t really put those feelings into words. I think those who use it don't realize it's poking fun of people who cannot stand up for themselves (Josh)... but it is. If anyone called Josh a retard, he would smile and probably give them a hug. I mean seriously, he has no idea.

There are so many things going on in the world right now… I know my issue with the word retard is something very small and insignificant to most, and I’m not trying to make this into something bigger than it is. All I’m trying to do is help people to realize that our words matter. We have the power (strong word) to make someone happy or make someone sad… all with the words we speak.

So I apologize for using today’s post as my way of being brave… as my own personal soap box… as my way of asking you to please reconsider the use of that word, in yourselves, in your families, in your work places, in the community.

Today, I choose to use my power to make someone happy with my words.

Will you please join me?

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