A certain type of adult get on a crowded bus and people gladly give up their seat. This same adult stops and says “Hi,” to you as you’re grocery shopping and you politely say “Hello!” back with a mile wide grin.
People will rarely give up their seat on the bus to the pregnant or elderly. They often look appalled when a stranger greets them. But when that person happens to have a mental disability we suddenly pull out all the stops to make sure they are having the best day ever. And they are, because unlike the rest of the constantly rushing, overworked, and often irritated population; those with mental incapacities generally don’t involve themselves with the rat race the rest of have come to know as life.
People are so nice to mentally disabled people. They smile, converse, and even put out on an animated voice. People almost act as if they’re interacting with a child. This is ironic considering most adults seem to find it annoying when their actual child interrupts their oh so busy life in hope of interaction. Does it make us feel superior to patronize these people? Do we get a certain joy or morality boost by high fiving the adult man with Down syndrome? Look at how good of a person I am; I’m nice to slow people. It’s interesting how the guy in the gym with an extra chromosome quickly becomes Buddy or Sport while the people a mile over don’t even get a smile.
Do we pity the mentally disabled people? Is that why we’re so nice to them? This is a theory I find ironic because while the majority of us are too busy to stop and appreciate the beautiful sky or the bright colors on the store walls, disabled people tend to notice it all. How wonderful it would be to actually stop and smell the roses instead of ordering them online while simultaneously checking Instagram. The mentally disabled take it all in. We’re too busy supposedly living to actually notice all the life taking place around us; a life that “special” people don’t miss out on appreciating.
They don’t worry about the things we worry about. They don’t care if they eat two slices of cake instead of one, or what Sally meant by the comment she made on Facebook. Partly it has to do with their incapacity to absorb such material, but wouldn’t it be nice to just wear the dress you like without fear of judgment or dance like nobody’s watching because your jam comes at the grocery store?
Instead of speaking slow and overly articulate to people with disabilities, maybe we should be letting them teach us a thing or two. We feel as though we should pity these jubilant, free spirited people because they’re not as mentally evolved as we are. But where has that gotten us other than trapped in piles of debt, stress, and constantly comparing our lives to others? The majority of us are likely taking more medication than this supposed inferior group of people.
The next time you see a smiley, intrigued by everything, whimsical individual resist your temptation to converse with them in a dialect reminiscent of baby talk. Tell them how you feel when they ask you how you are. You just might receive the genuine hug you didn’t even realize you needed. In this instant gratification, lack of communication, super fast culture, us non-disabled people could definitely benefit from being a little slow.