Bellowing. I could hear it all the way from where I sat, halfway down the hall. My teacher just spoke louder and louder trying to mask the noise, but everytime, to no avail, I would raise my hand and ask, "May I go to the restroom?" She would nod her head with obvious disdain, and I would sleep out of the room. "Hey, Bubba. Are you okay? Did they sit you in the hallway again today?" Of course, he couldn't hear me anymore because he was worked into such a fit. "Hey, Bubba. Bubba!" I would say this while gently touching his arm. "What did they say you did this time?" He was starting to calm down. His snot and tears were starting to flow less freely--his screaming ebbing. "Oh, Bubba. Will you be okay? I only asked to go to the bathroom; I have to get back to class. Here comes your warden. Too bad she doesn't help, only harms. I have to go. I love you, Bubba. School will be over in 2 hours. You can make it, okay? We'll watch your favorite show when we get home." And so we would fufill this ritual. Everyday. First grade. Second grade. On and on and on.
Me, ten years later: "Hey, make sure he's in our class meetings, okay? Is he allowed to go on that trip? Can he walk off campus or does the wheelchair mean driving? Does my mom need to sign any papers? If that girl sits on him and makes that nervous laughter emit from his mouth one more time, I'm gonna lay her out. Are you sure this new teacher knows what she's doing? Whoa. A wheelchair race for him? Yeah, I'll be there. I can't leave for six weeks; my brother needs someone to protect him. Fine, Bubba; I'll go. You did what? Bubba, you can't attack people like that; they'll take you away from us. We need you. They did what to you? We can't move again. It's our senior year. Will you walk with me at graduation? Yeah, I know, you'll technically be driving. Don't mouth off to me. Will you be there to watch me at my performance? Of course, I'll come watch you sing, I'm your proud Sissy. What do you mean he can't move out? We're twins; we've always been in the same grade, if I move out, he's gonna throw a fit at not getting to move out as well. Come on, Mom. You need to experience empty-nest syndrome. You can't keep him homebound; he has to experience the world. Not everyone is a jerk to people with disabilities. It's just this rural area. I promise, they'll surprise us in a good way. It just might take us a while to find those people."
Other people, forever: "You're brother is having surgery; we'll keep him about two weeks. Here are his prescriptions; medicaid decided to stop paying for it so we'll need that money as soon as possible before the first of the month. Hey, we'll be delivering those diapers and baby wipes tomorrow. You don't normally sign for this stuff; where are his parents? This lift is going to cost you an arm and a leg. How are you going to afford to take him places? What do you think would be best? You really think that's good for him? How does that help him; that's stupid. Come on now, you don't expect me to believe you're really in charge of this boy. You're, like, eightteen. Wow. That's worse than being a single, teenage mother. You have a grown man to look out for that still needs the care of a baby and the conversation of a twelve-year-old. Good luck. I'm sorry. You can do it. I don't know how to help you. I don't know what to say."
All this questions. All the time. And to those people claiming to not know how to help--saying you're sorry sure as hell isn't helping. Teachers, why do you give us homework and nineteen equations, but don't bother to ask us, "Hey, I noticed you didn't finish a couple of these assignments. I'm not going to write you off as a bad kid just yet, if you can tell me what's going on in your life. I would really like to hear it, and if you don't want to say it, just write me a letter, okay? Yeah, I'll write you a note for your next class. Just stay here a little while. It's my break period. We have plenty of time."
Why do you just assume the worst? If we're in a bad mood, we aren't just rebellious kids, maybe we had a fight with our parents, we stayed up all night talking a friend out of suicide, or we're having a lot of family issues. Why do you have to automatically write us off as not worth you're time. Just because you don't think we're "trying" doesn't mean we aren't giving your work our every ounce of free time. Some of us aren't blessed with free time. Some of us are just fighting for the survival of our friends, our families, and sometimes, even, of ourselves. So if you would give us the measley time of day, we might give you a little respect too.
Do you even know what is going on in your students lives? Do you know what is consuming their minds? Do you know why?
Give it a try. Care.
Don't be so damn judgemental all the time. Oh, we aren't up to your standards? Maybe, just maybe, we aren't going for your standards. Maybe we're going for our own. Or our family's.
There is a lot going on that you have no clue about. YOU HAVE NO CLUE.
Maybe, you should take the time to ask. Maybe, we could be friends and have some mutual understanding, and I would extend to you the same kindness on your bad day that you could extend to me.
Maybe, that would open the lines of communication. I could use some well-intended advice right now, but until you know our stories, you have no reason to give us anything. We have no reason to give you anything.
So try it.
We'll know you by your actions. We're waiting for you to step up. We're watching for your move. We're waiting to hear words of understanding--words of care. We're waiting to not be judged--to be un-judged. To be seen in a new light. In a different perspective. You're the role model, the guardian, the protector. Act like it. Stand up for you should be.
See you on the otherside, if you decide to make it.