The Complexity of Simply Communicating
I recently visited southern California where I had the chance to have a one-on-one conversation with Z, the 20 year old son of two of my dearest friends. What would make that conversation special enough for me to want to share it with the Wiley Wandering crew? Well, sometimes you just know you are heading somewhere special, even before the journey begins.
Approaching 21 years ago, my two dear friends were pregnant with their first born. Due to a series of mishaps, their first child was born with cerebral palsy. Today this very intelligent, witty, charming young man, now a high school graduate and college student, doesn’t have any problems understanding the world he lives in, but that world doesn’t always necessarily understand him. Case in point, on a beautiful 76 degree day in Rancho Cucamonga, California I approached him in his family’s driveway while he was waiting for a van to pick him up for his day’s activities and asked him where he was going. He answered me, but it took me quite some time to understand what he had actually said. I would guess this, and he would dismiss that guess with a head shake, I would guess that, and again he would dismiss my guess with a kind, but emphatic head shake. As Z and I were attempting to align our communication, my eleven year old son joined us for the walk he and I had planned to go on. He witnessed some of our engagement, then Z’s ride picked him up, and my son and I embarked on our bonding moment.
As we walked I asked him how it was for him to communicate with Z. He told me he had no difficulties communicating with Z. Curious about whether he might be overstating the situation I asked him if he understood Z. He ensured me he was comfortable with the fact that their communication was good. I then asked him if his relationship with Z had influenced the way he saw others that were different from him. He said yes! He then talked a great deal about how he had no tolerance for kids who used mean spirited language like retard. I listened to my little man with pride as he told me a few stories about how he challenges other kids about the things they say. Now, I am not naïve. I know my son still does and says things that wouldn’t make me proud, as I am sure I still do. Nevertheless, his awareness and articulation of certain social injustices is probably more advanced than most his age and bodes well for the possibility that he will become better able to transcend some of his potential blind spots and insensitivities. Do you think, while exposure is not closure, we can avoid aversion with an attempted immersion into other’s realities? What makes you think this? What are your stories that serve as examples? How might we improve our world by taking the time to examine the realities/worlds of others?