Dear Dad in the Video Store recently:
I’m sorry I scared your young daughter, with my nasal feeding tube equipment. When you both came into my aisle and she squealed, I thought the cover of a video had frightened her.
When you said, “I know, it’s disgusting, don’t look at it,” I hoped she had been frightened by the cover of a video.
When she wouldn’t come near me to follow you down the aisle, then had to have your hand on her shoulder while she “covered her eyes” to get past me, I figured she wasn’t frightened by the cover of a video.
When you said “excuse me” loudly, and had me move even farther over, to allow you and your daughter to pass me without any question of your being touched by me, I knew your daughter was frightened by me. Even worse, I knew I was the “disgusting” you were referring to. I called my husband from that store, just minutes later, in tears, and hid in the back of the store until there was a clear shot to the cash register, so I wouldn’t “frighten” anyone else. I cried the rest of the evening, at home, with my family.
Today, as I’m sitting on my computer, leading the three online support groups I created, to bring hope, awareness and information to those dealing with chronic medical conditions, your word, “disgusting,” continues to come to my mind.
Sir, I will agree with your use of the word “disgusting” in this situation, but I will not claim the title. I think that honor belongs to you.
As you allowed your daughter to squeal in fright at the sight of my feeding tube, I, and so many thousands of others, rejoice that science has created a way for us to receive nutrition and continue with our lives.
As you allowed your daughter to hear your description of my tubing and situation as “disgusting,” and instructed her to look away, you don’t know that I had, just hours before, been called “beautiful” by a friend of mine and her family, who looked past the tube to who I really am.
As you allowed your daughter to cover her eyes so she could get past me, without having to look at my taped and tubed face, I encourage hundreds of people, each and every day, to celebrate their scars and medical equipment, as reminders that we may be struggling, but we are still fighting. That makes us warriors, to be respected, sir. We are far from disgusting.
As you allowed your daughter to see that I, someone different, is one to be protected from, with your arms around her shoulders as you “excused me” farther away from you, I encourage those who are struggling with illness to move closer to others, for support.
In less than three minutes, sir, your daughter learned, from you, ignorance, disrespect, intolerance, and fear.
There may come a day when you need a piece of medical equipment to help you get through your day. You can be assured, sir, that neither my children, nor I, will exclaim how disgusting you are, or cover our eyes while walking past you.
You see, sir, I’ve taught my children that mistreating those who are different is disgusting.