Last night Kevin and I watched the movie Temple Grandin. If you haven’t seen this movie then stop reading my blog, go to the video store, rent it, and watch it immediately. I had heard of this movie many times but finally got it at the library last week. I can’t say enough about how great it was. For those of you who don’t know who Temple Grandin is, here is a little bit of info on her. She is autistic, brilliant, a professor at CSU (Colorado State University), revolutionized the cattle industry and in effect became an animal activist/humanitarian. Her life story is an inspiration, not only for autistic children and their families, but for everyone. While Dr. Grandin (yes she is a Dr., having gotten her Ph.D., remember she is autistic) is an amazing woman, I think her mother is just as amazing. Eustacia Cutler is a Harvard graduate herself, mother of 4, and a woman who never, ever gave up on her daughter despite numerous advice to institutionalize her. I was truly inspired by how hard she fought for her daughter and followed her mother’s heart. I wish I had an ounce of her strength, determination and devotion.
In the movie, Temple’s mother constantly reminds her that she is “Different, not less.” Three words, a mountain of meaning. As soon as I heard it I got teary eyed. That is exactly how I feel about my child. He is different, but he is not less than any other child out there. The truth is that every child is different. There are no two children alike. Not even twins. Each child has their own personality, their own strengths, their own weaknesses. But it is special needs children who are constantly labeled as different. Why is that? I see a lot of neurotypical children doing weird and strange things but they are never said to be “different”. They are just children, perhaps “going through a stage”. Yet you see a child walking with a limp, or a child rocking back and forth, or a child who doesn’t answer you when you ask a question and all of the sudden they are “different” and people stare at them or run away. Maybe if we embraced each other for our differences instead of associating negative thoughts with the word different, people would just accept others for who they were.
For example, I have two best girl friends. One who I grew up with and share many qualities with, we aren’t too different. The other, a complete opposite of me in many ways. For one she has a whole different skin color (she’s my black sista). For another she is a girly girl. She dresses very nice, has matching jewelry and purses for each outfit, does the whole makeup and perfume thing. Seriously has anyone ever seen me in matching jewelry and purses, let alone a matching outfit? No. For another she has a beautiful show home, I call it Hotel LaPrell (that is her name). Each room has a different theme. I have a standing reservation for the Egyptian room while Jackson has a standing reservation for the African room. It’s a beautiful home but nothing like my average casa. On the outset the two of us are one odd couple. We couldn’t be more “different”. Yet for some reason we are like sisters from another mother. I accept LaPrell for who she is and she accepts me for who I am (even if she does object to my constant wearing of Chacos). If I had been someone who rejected or dismissed others who were different from me, I wouldn’t have had one of the best friendships I’ve ever had and my life no doubt would have been a little emptier.
So maybe instead of saying to ourselves in a negative tone “That person is different” we should say in an uplifting tone “Hey that person is different!” and accept them for the truly unique person they are. I wonder what would happen to our world if everyone did that. It’s a really nice thought to consider. So next time you are out and about and see someone who is different than you, remember - “Different, not less.”