Summer is almost here. I had picked my blue beaded sandal to wear that day. As I was waiting outside my daughter’s art class, I felt a little nudge on my feet. I looked down to find two tiny little shoes trying to fit into the curves on the side of my sandal. I said to the little boy who seemed fascinated by my sandals “Hi There, I think you like my sandals.” He looked up, his forehead covered with beautiful golden hair and smiled at me. “Hi There !” His smile was more radiant than the sun shining on us.
He kept trying to fit in his shoes on to the side of my sandals. I asked again “Do you like my sandal?” He looked up, smiled again and said “Blue Beads.”
Now when you have a young man appreciating something so much, you need to pay attention. I knelt down and began chatting with him. We still had five minutes for the class to get over. He was waiting for his sibling I was told. His Mom knelt beside me and we got chatting too. Soon the class was dismissed and we saw some children trickling out. We stood up. The little boy still playing with the beads of my sandals.
The mom said “Thank you for talking to him.”  I almost did not understand what she meant. I asked her again. She repeated. “Thank you for talking to him. Most people don’t.”
I choked. I fumbled with my words, not knowing what to say. Why did a Mom have to thank a stranger for saying Hello, giving a hi-five and talking to a precious little four year old ? Just because he looked a little different than others ? Just because he has down syndrome ? Is that reason enough ?
The mother told me that apparently it was. People would withdraw upon seeing him. And therefore when anyone treated her son like another child around, she made it a point to thank that person.
As a mother of two myself I can never imagine thanking people to just talk to my kids or saying hello to them. I take it for given. And I thought that we have come a long way and there is more acceptance in the society than before.Not really. Few days later, I narrated this to my friend and she had a similar story to share.
Her son had invited everyone from his class for his birthday party. He had called everyone. When the party wrapped up and the parent’s came by to pick their kids, she was saying her customary “Thank you for being there for my son’s birthday.” One of the dad’s replied “Actually thank you for having him. He usually does not get invited to such parties.” His son had special needs and was coping to be part of a regular elementary school. My friend choked too. She did not find the right words to respond. Neither she nor her son had felt that this little man needed a different treatment than the rest of the folks in the class. He had to be there for the party as anybody else did.
We talk about awareness. We are all aware, are we not. Can we really plead ignorance in today’s world ?  Eliminating discrimination from our minds is probably the first most basic step. We are so caught up in the notion that everything should look and be perfect that our hearts seem to have shrunk.  
People with special needs have a larger heart than people who do not have those needs. Probably because they do not care much for perfection.
This is for you my little friend. Thank you for the lovely conversation that afternoon. Thank you for the smile that made my day. Thank you for loving my sandals. Thank you for looking at life so impartially. Thank you for this and a lot more.
21 March is World Down Syndrome Day. This story came in a little later. But it had to be shared, it had to be told, it had to be read. This post is written by Piya Mukherjee, the resident author at the chatoveracuppa blog. Thank you to the little man who has prompted all of us to sit up and take notice of something many largely ignore.