Recognizing how we’re alike, while others unfairly fear differences

Every once in a while, a parent is fortunate enough to look back on his or her past and suddenly see how it has become part of today and is destined to play an important role in a child’s future.

This happened recently, unexpectedly, when these three timelines merged, all in one steamy afternoon.

It all began — at least as far as I was concerned – with a political discussion in the car, initiated by the 9-year-old. She’s paying attention to the Presidential race, and has formed her own opinions on the players. But I could tell she was having trouble with why so many people strongly dislike — and like — Donald Trump.

The discussion turned to the topic of how some people believe other people deserve to be treated differently, not in a good way, because they’re considered inferior. Donald Trump has struck a nerve and gained a portion of his following because of his beliefs how Muslims, Mexicans, women, people with disabilities aren’t worthy of the same consideration and respect as other people. He insultingly mimics people with disabilities. He demonizes Muslims and wants to keep them from coming to America. He wants to send Mexicans who aren’t U.S. citizens back to Mexico — and build a wall to keep them there.

Even a 9-year-old understands this is just plain wrong.

The conversation ended as we arrived at our destination, an event that included children’s rides.Our daughter was told she could select one ride. She opted for the spinning strawberries, one of those rides where you sit inside a shell and spin a flat metal wheel to increase the revolutions to barfingly speeds.

One of the people in line was a special needs person. She was alone, different physically, emotionally immature, and clearly ill at ease with people — obviously out of her comfort zone.

She got out of line, then got back in the line.

Then I saw it:People giving those “What are you doing here and why don’t you have the decency to leave?” glares. Somewhere between fright and anger, feeling threatened.

It’s been a long time since I saw those glares.

The young lady boarded one of the berries. A mother with her young child approached the berry and prepared to get in. The mother stopped and pulled her child back. She turned to the person running the ride and asked for her tickets.

Our 9-year-old bounded up to the berry and hopped in.

I mentally prepared myself for our ride-maniac’s disappointment when her ride-mate didn’t share her enthusiasm for aggressively spinning the berry.

Before the ride began, their berry slowly began to revolve. The revolutions picked up speed as the ride got under way. Then I got a look inside the berry as it flew by. There were two excited girls, laughing and pulling that metal centerpiece with all their might.

They were clearly having a blast. I felt sheepish for underestimating the young adult, and preparing myself and my daughter for failure. I flashed back to my own childhood, and those glares at families who dared to bring a special needs child out in public.

When the girls got out of the berry, I gave her ride-mate a high-five and told her the two of them were the fastest berry going, and how much fun it was to watch them. Our daughter was happy she shared the ride with someone who shared her daredevil passion. It was about similarities — not difference.

Her new friend smiled, then crept away through the crowd.

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