This evening, Janey craved some ice cream, as she often does. Tony and the boys were off to a concert, the first big concert the boys have been to, so it was ladies night here, and I decided we'd have ice cream for our ladies night. We walked to the corner store. Believe me when I say that it's not really an upscale place. Tonight was a vivid illustration of that. The people hanging around outside the store were people you usually only see in movies when they want to show that something very scary is about to happen, or that you are in a very, very bad neighborhood. But Janey wanted her ice cream, and my fear of how she'd react if we turned around far outweighed any nervousness about the folks outside the store. As we got close to the door, one of the lowlife looking guys rushed over and opened it for us, and gave Janey a little bow. When we got in, several other interesting looking people started shouting toward the cashier. I braced myself for some demand for money, but instead they were asking him if there were any rules about how many squirts of syrup you could put in a slushie (if you are interested, there are no limits on that). Janey took a long time to pick out her ice cream, as she doesn't like to rush important decisions, and a woman that looked very much like she might be involved in a very old profession was waiting to get ice cream, but when I told Janey we needed to hurry it up, she said "No rush at all, honey, let the little sweetie take her time" So we did. Finally, ice cream in hand, we went to check out. The cashier smiled a huge smile and said "Hey, I know that girl! Hi, there, darling!" I said "yes, she's a regular" and he laughed and laughed and said "We are always happy to see her!" I asked Janey to say thank you, which she sort of did, and we were on our way.
Walking home, I was fighting back happy tears. Janey certainly wasn't acting "normal" in the store. She was making her sounds, and jumping up and down, and waving her arms about, and in general not acting at all the way you'd expect an almost 9 year old girl to act. But the people there treated her with kindness and respect. And I thought how that's pretty much the only way I judge people any more. If you are good to Janey, if you are kind to her and accept her and treat her well, I see you as a good person. Maybe that's too simplistic. But I can't think of a much better gauge.
I'm not very religious, but from somewhere, from some long ago Sunday school lesson or sermon, I recalled a Bible verse. I looked it up, and it's Matthew 25:40, which says "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." It's referring to feeding the hungry, and clothing those without clothes, and visiting prisoners, but I don't think it's a stretch to apply it to being kind to another kind of "least of these brethren", those like Janey, with autism and intellectual disabilities. How we treat people who, although I don't like to think of them as "less", are different than us---that seems like a pretty good way to judge people. And you just never know. Today reminded me of that. Another time, the person going out of their way to be good to Janey might be a millionaire, or a grumpy teenager, or a fellow classmate, or anyone else. Whoever they are, I thank them, from the bottom of my heart.