What would you do if....
...you were a mom with a boy who has cerebral palsy. It is rainy and cold and you are outside just waiting for the trolley. An able-bodied, strong, young man approaches your sons wheelchair and with a fervor blazing in his eyes says, "Can I take a picture with your son?"
You would have done exactly what my friend who happens to be that mom would have done.
Not only "No." But "Hell no." As he walked away like a comet burning down the railroad line you would have talked to others around you. "What a creep. Can you believe the nerve of that guy? Some people are unbelievable. Who does he think he is?"
I knew exactly who he was.
I observed his behaviors. He kept trying to engage with people. He couldn't stop moving. I caught up with him and introduced myself. I got a closer look at him and I just peered into his eyes. They were a raging blue and even though he looked back I could tell he couldn't see me. His face was leathered and his mouth was at a constant tremor. I said, "Are you ok?"
"I'm pretty manic right now."
We then talked about how he use to be on lithium and he had been in the hospital more times than he could count. I asked what his name was and he said, "My street name is Dirt."
Dirt. Just the way I'm sure most people treated him when they saw his reckless behavior. A behavior that any civilized person should be able to keep at bay. Each passing trolley was packed and he felt is mission to help my friend's son on the trolley. As a trolley door opened he hung onto it. I pulled him back and as the trolley sped away he ran along side it and looked like he was tagging it. Like he had a spray can in his hand. But it was just his hand. He said he had tagged a lot of stuff around town.
Sometimes I feel like Dirt too. I've approached little kids and tried to engage with them. Every time I'm hypo/hyper manic I think children have the secrets to the universe. They can see inside my eyes and I see inside theirs. If I hadn't "been there" before I would have reacted the way my friend did.
If you haven't been there, you wouldn't understand. But I think more than that, you wouldn't know what signs to look for, so compassion for his situation wouldn't even register.
The trolleys were so packed because we were on our way to the Women's March. Signs of all sorts sprung up. "Women's rights are human rights" from a woman. "Black lives matter" from a black man and so on and so on.
They fought because they knew what it was like. They have been in the trenches. And I'm sure sometimes they feel like dirt too.