Beyond FUN: Yet Another Playground Story
Even more nifty is the fact that I went off to watch my other kiddo and returned to find my son on the same teeter-totter with a new companion—a boy named Andrew. I’d seen Andrew with his big sister in another part of the playground earlier. He was probably around 10 or 12 and appeared to have Down syndrome. He really seemed to appreciate having a new playmate for a few minutes, and I was sure to tell my son that later on our drive home. I told him most people choose to ignore people like Andrew on a playground or in another public place. They don’t know what to expect from them and prefer to keep their distance. I added simply that he’d done a really nice thing and should feel good about it.
Today, I read an interview with Elizabeth Cox from a book called Conversations with American Women Writers in which Cox explains her strategy for overcoming writer’s block: “I look away. I read something else, like science, or poetry, and often that helps me to become unstuck. I get the stuck passage in my mind; then I look away. I walk or go for a swim, or read; then I come back and see it differently.”
That one phrase—I look away—resonated. I’m familiar with Cox’s strategy and have certainly used it myself many times. Terrific insights into a character or a tricky chapter often come out of the blue when my mind’s occupied with something else. Weeding works well for me; so does cleaning house. (I should actually be doing one of those things right now, but this is much more fun!) What struck me, though, was the fact that “looking away” is what I’d just told my son most people opt to do in difficult situations—but he doesn’t. On one day he’ll confront world issues and questions and heartaches head on, and on another he’ll reach out to a lonely boy on a playground in a very simple, kind way…by asking him to play. I wish more people were like him. If more would opt not to look away—or maybe to look away for a moment to gather their thoughts or nerve or whatever it takes and then return…like so many writers do…to address a tricky situation—maybe then there’d be fewer incidences of “playground prejudice” on and off the playground. Maybe then more people would “come back,” “see differently,” and not dismiss a person who fails to conform to a widely held notion of normalcy.
At least yesterday, on a breezy Colorado morning on the first day of summer 2006, one boy chose not to look away, and another boy was happy for it.
Photo: Alaska Chapter of the National Down Syndrome Congress