One night, before Dave and I were married, we had a conversation.
It was about, if we could, what we would change about the other person. I can't even remember what I said. Something about how I wish he wasn't so defensive or maybe it was how it bothers me that he bites his nails until they are nothing but little nubs.
When it was Dave's turn to tell me what he would change about me, I remember exactly what he said. Out of all of my 32 zillion faults, he said, "I wish you wouldn't say the word retarded anymore. My very best friends have a child with Autism and it really bothers me when you say that.".
I shrugged and apologized. I told him that I wouldn't say it anymore.
We moved on.
And there it is. I used to say it. Apparently quite often, too. I didn't think anything of it, to be honest. I never meant any harm and I certainly never meant to offend anyone by it. After all, it was just a word.
I feel ill when I think about it. I feel confused. I feel like a hypocrite. Like a phony. I wonder what right I have now to sit here shaking my head at people who use the word? Why do I now get to be offended when I hear it come out of other people's mouths? I used to be one of those people! Why now do I get to feel that pit in my stomach when I see the word in print, as a joke, or when I hear it time and time again on the television?
Because of Dylan.
He has changed me. Without doing anything, other than being him, he has given me that right. He has opened my eyes and has made me better. He has guided me in the belief that once you know better, you do better.
And I am learning. I am trying to do better now because my little guy and all people with intellectual disabilities deserve us to.
Will you try?
Because this? This montage?
It hurts. Yes, now that I know better, let me tell you that it hurts very much. This is the world that we live in. Indeed, in the past I played my own hurtful part in it, but no more. Everything is different now for this is the world that my son will grow up in. A world in which he will be made fun of, just because he is...Dylan. It doesn't have to be that way, if we can change. If we can be open to the idea of learning how to do better...learning how to treat people well.
Let's do better. Let's learn to pay attention to the things that we say, the words that we use. Because intentional or not, they can be offensive. And just like you, people with Down syndrome deserve respect.
Please visit this website to Spread the Word to End the Word.