This weekend’s activities made me stop and think about first impressions and how to best approach them. I was at a restaurant watching a musician/comedian, who had the audience in stitches. The table behind me sat a couple, who had been married for 46 years. I looked back at them and noticed they were with a man who stated he was 44 years old. I also realized he happened to have Down syndrome. I looked away; partly because his parents were trying to listen and watch him, while also explaining to him they were telling the comedian how many years they had been married, not birthday years.
At the end of the performance, I wanted to hand them a card and explain my work. I wanted to connect with them and talk about their family. Yet, I didn’t because they were out enjoying their evening with their son, and maybe my presence would have singled him out in a negative way instead of the positive way I had intended. Maybe the family would think I was an imposter or an evil journalist doing a piece on the “other”.
I’m still not sure what would have been the best thing to do. I don’t think a uniformed approach to everyone about my work is possible. I am still perfecting my approach, toying with appearing confident yet unassuming, vulnerable but not naïve, educated but not a snob.
There are many people who are OTs like myself, who feel compelled to share their education with the world. There’s also regular people, desiring to connect with the man or woman across the room, who happens to have Down syndrome, merely for good conversation and nothing else. However, when we are in the presence of someone who is different than us, what do we do? Do we look away? Do we look longer and smile? Do we think about this person differently? When we stop to think about the uncommon or even slightly uncomfortable moments in our lives, that is when we can ask the hard questions. I aim to constantly ask the hard questions of myself and to those who I educate because that’s where I believe the greatest personal growth occurs. If you have ever had a similar experience and found yourself wondering how to approach the person or situation, please share your story in the comment section.