Climate of Disregard

This post has been written and rewritten in my head.   Most of them are.  Sitting down to the keyboard and examining the events of our life here is often an achievement simply in time and energy to complete my task.   Beyond that, I ask myself to be candid (to a reasonable degree) with myself and my audience.   Of course, to relate my life I must confess my own faults as well as revealing the ones I discover in this very strange special needs life.  Earlier this week, a friend and special needs mom, S.S., referred to my blog as “blunt.”  Blunt?  This, I believe, she intended as a compliment.  So, I will continue to strive for blunt since it seems to be my style.

Now, here we are when I must confess and address my own faults.  But I need to recognize my faults and methods without altering my purposes.  I have already admitted throughout the life of this blog that at times I can fall very easily into the role of Mama Bear (at times referred to as “Crazy Woman”).   As last Monday dawned, I had a few subjects on my mind to address this week via this blog: special needs camps and wheelchair accessible vehicles.  I expected the week to be fairly calm as Ronan headed off to a day camp and Riley spent one on one time at home with me.  Unfortunately, my head seems to be stuck in Park back at the camp parking lot.

This summer I had opted out of having Ronan attend his traditional Vacation Bible School (VBS) at St. John’s the Evangelist.  For one reason, he is taking classes through the school year at St. Leo’s toward his First Communion.  For another, I was irritated by St. John’s permissiveness in allowing unauthorized vehicles to repeatedly park in the handicapped spaces and expecting me to back down on the subject.   Another parent, we’ll call her Friend, of a playmate suggested we sign up for Vacation Bible School at First Presbyterian Church along with their child at their church for last week, I agreed.  John drove him the first couple of mornings, but soon enough I found myself packing up Riley into the car for Ronan’s drop-off and pickup.  This production is simply part of what I do, but I try to make it as simple as I can and left the wheelchair at home.  Entering the western parking lot I discovered a sea of handicapped parking which I used and carried Riley into the facility discovering I was on the far side of the building.  By the time I had navigated check-in, classrooms, hallways and a huge crowd Riley was slipping from my arms and we were both sweating from the steamy Florida summer.  We made it safely to the car and home listening to Ronan sharing his wonderful day of camp.  He loved it and couldn’t wait for the next day.

The following morning, I had wised up and went to park by the school entrance.  My husband and I would never abuse the placard without having our special needs child with us.   I found an available handicapped space, gathered Riley up in my arms and headed toward the entrance.  Looking up, I realized that all the parking spaces we were passing were occupied by vehicles without handicapped licenses or placards.  One, two, three of them.   This has been an ongoing fight for me to keep unauthorized cars out of these slots.  It does matter.  These spaces are designated for a reason.  It’s the law.  Need I explain this?  I asked the security guard to please see these cars and do something about it.  As the guard and I stood in the middle of the parking lot I looked up to discover the entire row and that across the way were handicapped spots full of auto’s parked illegally.  There must have been twelve of them – surprisingly, I did not count them.  I was so mad I’m not sure I could have counted them.

Should I call the police?  My son attends this camp and wants to continue to attend this camp.  After delivering Ronan to his classroom, I made it clear along the way that this situation should be dealt with.  Riley was once again placed in his car seat when the lovely twenty-something mom returned to the gleaming black SUV next to me.  Naturally, I confronted her… becoming more upset with each word explaining that this space is reserved for handicapped parking.

She looked straight at me: “Don’t yell at me.  I don’t even know you.”

My retort: “Well, I know you!”  I believe I do know her.  This action and more importantly her response tells me all about her.

As I left, another mom was returning to her vehicle and I was not about to allow her to get away with this so easily.  Her reaction to me as she tried to take both of my hands.

“Oh, you poor woman.  You’ve life must be so hard.”

My response.  “Don’t touch me.”  With that, she grabbed her child and returned to the school to complain about me.

As she marched back inside, I observed one father making his way across the handicapped lot holding son’s hand.   His look had the hint of a rebel, yet here he was: the only parent obeying the law.

Really, I am the problem?  Well, I guess I am.  Why does it always have to be me standing up for right and wrong.  I’m tired.  All the same, I cannot let it go.  Yes, really, I am Crazy Woman because they are not going to continue this behavior on my watch.  As they watch me in return thinking that I am nuts.  And the woman returning to the school to complain about me…. how does she explain my outburst.  “I was parked in the handicapped lot and some crazed person insisted I had no right to be there.  What are you going to do about her?”

What really bothered me about those two women was their determination that they were perfectly justified.

Being Stacie, I was not about to be finished with this episode even if I had not requested the police to patrol the lot.  I left a sincere message for the camp organizer.  This same organizer had giggled when I signed up Ronan with a warning.  My warning, I am a special needs mom with a child in my arms and I WILL take exception to any lack of sensitivity.  Does she remember this warning?  Miss Organizer passed off my call to the Pastor.   Two hours later, he called me.   Thank you.  Most everyone ignores this issue of mine and wants me to simply disappear with my objections.  It seems that I had caused quite a lively morning and staff debate.  He admitted that perhaps they had become a little lax about the parking during weekdays.  The city sets the number of designated handicapped spaces by the size of their parishioner body.  This number left them having most all of their regular spots at a bit of a walk and over time people simply started using the closer spaces regardless of the designation.

The pastor allowed me to explain my objections.   The reason I found most offensive:  each of these parents is teaching their children the same disrespect for our disabled citizens.  Their needs and desires are clearly more important than obeying the law.   He listened kindly to my concerns and did begin to put up signs explaining that these spaces are intended for handicapped parkers.  Yes, the church needed computerized signs on top of the official handicapped signs.

Continuing to rage, I called to vent to the other parent in the program.  I was furious, offended, disgusted… Over the phone, I heard her laughter bubble up and over the line.  “Your right!, It’s wrong.”  She laughed some more… and then came the confession, “and I was one of them.”  “Huh.”  Dumbfounded.  Did I even respond to her?  “I apologize.  I really am sorry…”  I made my point.  This is my friend admitting her fault and she will not be doing it again.  My friend I adore.  My friend I want to keep in my life.  The mother who parents’ my child in my absence.

This had become the culture at the Church.  Everyone parked in the handicapped spaces.  I do admit, they have the most abundant handicapped lot I have ever encountered.  No one questioned parking there.  It was not a problem.  During mass celebrations the spaces are still respected.  But on school days it was free for all.  For all I know, the Pastor was parked in them as well… he never said.  Going forward my friend won’t be parking in those spaces again without reason.  I, however, well, I cannot claim to have made much improvement in myself.  I will try to have reasonable exchanges the next time, but I know it will be a great challenge for me.

Oh, my goodness… I am going to have to be advocating for the rest of my life with everyone I ever encounter.  I am the self-appointed guardian of right and wrong – I don’t want to be.  I can’t be that person.  There was another special needs mom coming and going with her daughter who has Downs Syndrome and shared Rona’s class.  Did she say anything?  Most likely not.  Why must it always be me who has to have the big mouth?  I can barely get my own life right.  Wednesday evening, I had sat down to a Leadership Conference call with my Arbonne Upline.  I left the call determined to go out into the world and be part of it again.  Once again to create a network and friendships.  To be part of our society and not just “special needs mom.”   The first part of the assignment after this call was to identify and email our first take away from the call.  My email went out to Danielle, “My take away this evening: I am a person of influence!”

Posting my complaint of the day in my status, most of my FB friends ignored yet another rant.  I did hear from a few including two special needs moms:

  • Ml nice work! So many people really are blind to the needs of others different from themselves. I think it all stems from a lack of empathy. I’m not sure many parents are really training their kids with good questions that help cultivate empathy…and I’m not sure the human race has ever really been great at it…but boy would I like to try to help us all out!
  • MN One time at Bell Tower Movies, this convertible swooped into a handicapped spot I was going for and I saw in horror and watched while he reached into the glove compartment and pulled out his handicapped tag and put it on his rear view mirror then proceeded to JUMP out of the car. That’s right, JUMP, didn’t even open the door. Then turned and smiled at me and jogged up the walkway. I SOOOOO wanted to RAM his car, but I just keep thinking, YOU WILL BURN IN HELL!!!!
  • MH You know you always have my vote! I don’t understand that disrespect especially to my R man! Miss you all! Next time just call the police maybe a nice fat ticket would do the job!

After braving the Church and school again with the help of the Pastor, Ronan returned home with us.  I avoided the problem lot but observed that two stubborn cars remained.  The other mom called me to report that the teachers had removed their vehicles from the handicapped spots.  The teachers, the ones we allowed to guide our children’s spiritual growth, those teachers?  Ronan’s playdate arrived within the hour and I recanted my story to the next mom.  There it was again.  Laughter and amusement at my strong reaction.  So, no one who know me was running away in horror at my determination to change the behavior around me.  I added that this had become a hot button with me since experiencing the same violation and lack of caring at every school and house of God we attended.  “Bobbie Noonan’s too, I was always chasing parents out of the one handicapped spot,” I added to the story knowing she had a child there during the past year.  They had each looked at me like I had two heads and the administrator did no more than post a sign.  “No,” the other mom told me.  “Bobbie Noonan’s is very conscientious about the parking and would never allow that to happen.”  Now I looked at her as though she had two heads.  Bobbie Noonan’s did not care when we were there and wanted me to drop it.  It seems that yes, I am a person of influence – in my wake!

Relating the experience once again to our friend LF, she brought up a book I believe she called Tipping the Scales.  I will continue to search for this but so far I’ve been unsuccessful.  The non-fiction work recounts the efforts of New York City to curb crime on its subway system.  Many failed and expensive attempts did not alleviate the crime rate.  Finally, someone suggested that the grafitti be cleaned up.  Once the grafitti was removed, the city began to have more respect and faith in their subway system.  Eventually the crime rate did improve.  The point is here that our smaller actions do indeed make a difference in our society.

After my parking lot adventure, news of the Aurora Colorado Massacre unfolded.  John and LF debated the methodology behind the gunman’s actions.  John suspected he saw himself as the Joker, reveling in chaos.  This individual had no true connections in society.  As the story becomes revealed, we will likely hear from those who will express regret that if only someone had reached out to this very lost young man.  Yet, no one did.  And there will be another lost individual to follow him once again surrounded by the regrets of others.  Our society has become so inclined to simply take care of ourselves that we have little to no empathy beyond ourselves.  Do I dare to compare the parking law breakers to those who neglected to see the signs of killer?  Well, yes, I do to an extent.  We are one society all entwined and our actions do matter.

5 Responses to Climate of Disregard

  1. Rachel says:

    A friend shared this with me and I cried reading it. I have had these same issues in so many places and feel so alone in my need to speak to them and so despairing when faced with their responses.

    The worst place i came across was my son’s school, of all places. He was the only full time wheelchair user they had ever had and I am still astounded that they could see him each day, smile at him and say nice things about him, profess to care and understand his struggles, yet behave in a way which showed that they did not value disabled people. Why did they not feel totally ashamed of their actions?

    If abuse of accessible parking is tolerated, what other abuse will be tolerated?

    Every one of us must stand up to these people EVERY TIME we see someone park illegally. We must build a culture where our children will never abuse provision for people who need it and will never accept another doing it.

  2. Pam says:

    Stacie…….
    being a prophetic truthteller and teacher is quite the hard burden to carry—but some of us
    are blessed with the gift to be change agents—even at the cost of what others think.

    You my friend were the prophetic gospel preacher in the parking lot that morning….
    and i say

    Allelujah….Amen!

  3. jenneine says:

    Wow, you turned the light bulb on in my head when you said “these parents are teaching their kids to do the same thing”. The world does not suffer from people CARING TOO MUCH. Thanks for speaking up, now I’m empowered to say something kindly next time I see it.

  4. Celia (HHL) says:

    Stacie … you are certainly a person with a voice and a heart of gold. You are the voice not only for Riley but for all others (parents) who are not strong enough to speak up. You are a person of influence and someone who WILL make a difference for many. Blessings to you… hugs, C. (HHL)

  5. Erin says:

    Good for you Stacie! You are a person of influence, Riley and you have stuck in my heart all these years 🙂 keep fighting the fight, there are others who agree wholeheartedly with you!

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