Monday, January 21, 2019
Two different perspectives
The other day I took Jonathan to the library after school. It's only a 10-minute walk away, and he likes to go there once or twice a week to take out some of his favourite DVDs like the Wiggles, Super Why, Barney, Blue's Clues, etc.
To be honest, right now he is really more interested in collecting the DVDs than in watching them. So he spots his favourites on the shelf; we take them out; we return them (sometimes unwatched) when they're due; he takes them out again; and the cycle repeats.
Full disclosure: sometimes at the library he is loud. If he finds a DVD he wants, he raises his voice and excitedly looks around to find someone to share his enthusiasm with. If he can't find what he wants, he will sometimes complain with a loud "OH NO" or "GONE." But either way, whether they're excited sounds or frustrated sounds, we're only there for about ten minutes. If he's ever being extremely disruptive, I try to get him out more quickly, but most of the time it's not a problem. Occasionally someone looks our way, but no one's ever shushed us; the staff sometimes even greet Jonathan by name.
The other day we had found the DVDs we wanted and were sitting on a ledge getting ready to leave. Jonathan likes to name the DVDs one by one as we put them in my bag. As we were doing this, an older lady walked past. Jonathan said, "Hi! Hi!", wanting to share his excitement; she smiled, and I thought, now isn't she a nice person.
And then she said, "So this is who's been making all the noise!" and left the library.
Nice person, all right.
A couple of days later I was talking to Jonathan's teacher on the phone. She'd called to tell me she would be moving to a different position for the second semester. And then she raved about Jonathan.
She said how funny, comfortable, and talkative he is in the classroom.
She said how much he likes hanging out with David, a boy in another program whom he used to know in elementary school -- just two teenage guys enjoying each other's company.
She mentioned how he greets and engages people in the school so happily when he and his classmates are doing their coffee-cart duties.
She commented on what an enthusiastic, fast walker he is when their class goes on outings.
"He's just so great," she said.
To the woman in the library, Jonathan was one thing only: "the one making all the noise."
To his teacher, he was funny, friendly, enthusiastic, happy, and "so great."
They were looking at the same person but saw totally different things -- kind of like this well-known optical illusion which, if looked at one way, shows a young girl, but if looked at another way, shows an old woman with a wart on her nose.
This was such a good reminder for me, because I get frustrated with Jonathan myself at times -- maybe I focus too much on what he can't do or won't do or hasn't yet learned to do -- and lose perspective on all the amazing things that make him who he is.
I guess we all do that sometimes. We all need to be reminded that people are not one-dimensional, and that if our perspective is too narrow we may end up missing something important. The woman in the library missed out because she just saw someone making noise; she didn't take time to see the whole picture and share, even for an instant, in Jonathan's enjoyment. I feel sorry for her.
And as for his teacher: even if she isn't going to be his teacher anymore, it's good to know that while she was, she really saw him -- the whole person -- and appreciated him.