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31 for 21: Awareness and Understanding

Many bloggers are posting each day in October in honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Let’s be honest for a moment.

I seriously doubt my ability to blog for 31 days, but I’m going to give it the old college try. Which is my way of saying, it probably won’t happen. It’s similar to the answer “we’ll see” which really means “No, and I’m temporarily delaying your meltdown.” That said, I have an awareness story for you.

Yesterday I was in line at Kroger, our local grocery store. It was unusually crowded and I’d put off my weekly shopping until after work. On a Monday. (Yay me!) So, I was chit-chatting about the weather with the checkout clerk when

“Chicken!”

that’s right

“Chicken! Chick! Chicken!”

Someone was yelling “chicken.” The woman ringing me up and the woman bagging the groceries exchanged

“Chicken!”

glances as the chicken yelling kept up.

“Chick-Chick!”

Finally the cashier said, “What is that?” to the bagger.

“Oh, it’s just a teen with special needs. He comes here with his mom all the time. She tries to keep him under control, but he just yells ‘Chicken.'”

The cashier responded, “Okay,” and looked at me. I replied to them both, “Sometimes kids do things we can’t control. I don’t think he’s bothering anyone.” The cashier looked up and said, “You’re right. It’s not harming or hurting anyone.” And then the woman bagging spoke up,

“I have an autistic daughter, so I understand.”

Understand. That is the key here. Moving beyond awareness into the realm of understanding. We were aware of a kid yelling “chicken,” we got it when she explained the situation and tied it to her personal experience.

So, we went on with our day. He’s going to still come into the store yelling

“Chicken!”

but, our perspectives changed.

These are the moments that shape the opinions and attitudes of others. Awareness happens when something out of the ordinary catches our attention. Understanding is when we can appreciate the difference and incorporate it into our everyday.

How have you seen others move from awareness to understanding in your life?

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