Why We Should Change for Just One Person
As the parent of a child with food allergies, I know that there’s a right time to stand up and advocate for him.
I also know that there’s a time to shut up and scoop at the school’s ice cream social.
It was one of those times when the conversation among ice cream social volunteers inevitably turned toward food allergies. One vocal parent (not me, I promise) had complained about the ice cream social all the way up to the board of education trustees, and my fellow volunteers were indignant:
“But we can’t change the way we do things just because of one person!”
I smiled to myself and kept scooping ice cream…the nut-free, gluten-free, egg-free ice cream that I had personally selected for the event so that my son and his allergic friends could participate. We had already changed the way things were done, and no one realized it.
Yes, we can change for just one person
The truth is, we can change for just one person. I’m not referring only to people with food allergies. I’m also thinking of my older son, who has a developmental disability and who has inspired all of his teachers to re-think their teaching strategies over the years.
Although his teachers have been amazingly gifted, they didn’t change purely out of the goodness of their hearts – federal law requires school staff to accommodate his needs so that he may receive the Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to which all American children are legally entitled.
Change throughout our society
It’s not just teachers who have had to change for my older son. His grandparents and our family friends all had to change the way they interacted so that he could be included in family activities. Even the cashier at the grocery store had to learn how to be more patient when my family was checking out, and the person who cuts his hair had to learn how to cut at double speed.
If we didn’t change:
A world in which we do not change for just one person is a world with:
- No wheelchair ramps
- No accessible playgrounds or baseball fields
- No beeping pedestrian signals at street corners
- No sensory-friendly movie days
- No sign language interpreters at religious services
Yes, it’s inconvenient to change. You could even argue that it’s not fair to the people who don’t have those special needs – but then you’re arguing in favor of inequality, and that would lower the quality of life for everyone over time.
In fact, we must change for that one person. The only question is, how will we choose to change? Spitefully or gracefully?