Lately I may have been guilty of focusing on negative reactions to my daughter, Elin, who has Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy. Although I feel strongly that it's important for me to write about these reactions for a myriad of reasons, it's equally important for me to redress the balance.
You see the truth is, overwhelmingly, reactions to Elin are positive. People show her such love. Complete strangers. They treat Elin with such immense kindness, understanding and generosity that it almost takes my breath away. One of the most amazing things I have discovered since becoming Elin's Mummy is the capacity people have to show understanding and empathy, even to those they have never met. Despite what we read and know about human nature every day, I have never been so aware of the generosity of human spirit since I began travelling everywhere with a child in a wheelchair. It never ceases to amaze me. It can make the biggest difference between a good day and a bad day for us. It makes everything in our topsy -turvey world that little bit easier. Just knowing somebody 'gets it', that they understand has reduced me to tears of gratitude in the past, when I've been on the brink of tears of despair.
It's in the little girl in the waiting room wearing the same dress as Elin, in the same size, joyfully chattering away and showing us her new shoes and showing Elin how their dresses match though she gets no response. It's in the consideration of the doctor asking Elin which sticker she would like for 'being brave' even though she knows she cannot answer, and I will answer for her (the penguin one please, we like penguins). It's in the face of the balloon man making a flower for Elin as we pass by, making it pink, because she is a girl and handing it to me with a smile when she does not reach out to take it from him. It's in the cheery pat on the head the bus driver gives Elin every morning and the greeting, 'Alright Chicken, ready for school?', never dissuaded by her silent gaze. It's in glances in the coffee shop, the desperation not to stare, the smiles directed our way, the universal 'bless her' sound 'awwww'. It's in the grandma in Marks and Spencers who I have never seen before or since who touches my arm as she stands next to Elin's wheelchair and says, 'You're doing a wonderful job you know'. It's in the shop assistant who lets me sit on a display chair because Elin is crying and needs to come out of her wheelchair and wraps my gifts super-fast and gives me two free carrier bags for all the other stuff we're trying to shove under the chair so we can manage a bit easier. It's in the traffic warden who doesn't punish us even though I forgot the blue badge. It's in the comments from people I don't know on a video I posted online of a small achievement of Elin's, they think it's 'incredible' and 'awesome' and 'wonderful'. It's in the Tesco cashier who saw us in the paper regarding rights of the disabled and tells us to 'keep fighting, good for you!'.
The kindness of strangers is everywhere and like Blanche DuBois, we have unknowingly come to depend on it. I guess sometimes we just need to re-focus our vision a little in order to see it and remember it is there because most of the time, it absolutely is.
This blog post first appeared on the site www.mummakinglemonade.blogspot.co.uk