Polio, And Momma’s Little Ambassador

I checked to be sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, threw my bags in the car, and went to tell momma I was takin’ off. I had work the next day, and it was time to be getting back. My mom was always easy to find. You just listen for someone whistling a song, and follow that sound. She’ll be at the end of it. Today’s song came from the kitchen. A hymn (if you were wondering).

” I guess I’m gonna get going.”. I said as I entered the kitchen. Momma smiled and made her way over to me. She fiddled over me a bit to be sure I was presentable, and asked if I had everything I needed. I assured her that I did, and we had ourselves a good hug. As she hugged me, she stroked my hair from my head to my shoulders, and with a smile she said “Goodness son, I can’t believe they let you have a job with hair this long.” She was right. My hair really was far too long for a grown-up with a job, but I worked in an industry of creative people, where it wasn’t even noticed.

Now, I have no idea why she decided the moment was right, but for whatever reason my mom picked this time for one of the classic and traditional mother/son talks, that mothers and sons have. She reminded me to watch my behavior when, and wherever I am, because you never know if someone may be watching and may be inspired or influenced by that. I should remember that, and try to be a good example.

Well, she started out just fine, but within a sentence or two she realized how funny this speech was for her and I, and began to laugh her way through it. You see, she knew as well as I did that if you walked on crutches and braces like her beloved son did, there wasn’t a chance that “maybe” someone might be watching;…….you can bet your shorts that EVERYBODY will be watching. If I knew anything about life, I knew I was being watched. Bless her heart, this was her right as a mother to have this talk, and she was being robbed. Let me give that woman credit though because she didn’t let it stop her from having her moment. She gave the whole speech. She gave the whole thing laughing, but she gave the whole speech.

Heck, it was a good speech, and I loved hearing it. And polio or not, she was right. I really did need to stay aware of myself. Being handicapped did mean that people were watching, and for many of those people it is the first time they have encountered someone like this. You want to try and make a good impression because like it or not, you’re not just representing yourself, but other handicapped people as well. You try and think of yourself as kind of an ambassador for the handicapped and act accordingly. You really don’t mind people being curious, or asking questions. Who better to ask? You take a minute and be a good ambassador if you can.

My chance to be a good ambassador, came sooner than I expected. On my way home, I stopped for a bite to eat at a family restaurant just off of my exit. The hostess was showing me to my table and as we approached, I could see a little boy at the table next to mine catch sight of me. He instantly became transfixed. Now, for the most part, adults try not to look directly at you out of politeness. Kids on the other hand, make no bones about it. They are seeing something they have never seen before, and are trying their best to figure it out. Something like that requires full attention, and so they give it.

Now, I have seen more than my share of curious children in my time, but this little boy was taking it to a whole other level. I laughed a little inside because of how intense his reaction was to seeing me. This little boy was frozen. He couldn’t move. His eyes were as wide as he could make them, and his mouth fell open with his spoon still in it. I don’t exaggerate to say he had literally stopped breathing.

I sat down and he couldn’t see me anymore, because his mother was sitting between us. That’s when the little boy started slowly leaning out from his booth to see around his mother. I thought it was cute until I noticed tears beginning to swell up in his eyes. He didn’t look frightened, just intense. At this point his mother noticed and looked back over her shoulder to see what the boy was looking at. She quickly grasped the situation and gently told him to finish eating. He didn’t move. So she called his name to get his attention, but it was as if he couldn’t even hear her. She finally reached across the table and tried to push his head back over his body. He went limp so that only his chin moved as she pushed. This got her and I both tickled. This little boy was flat-out having a problem with what he was looking at. His mother glanced back over her shoulder at me again and without saying a word I looked at her with acknowledgment and comfort that I completely understood and was willing to help any way I could.

I took a moment to remember the talk me and my own mother had earlier in the day, and wished that she could be with me right now. She could watch me and this boys mother explain to him all about being a handicapped person. It would be a real teaching moment for the child that would stay with him for a lifetime. And I was ready. I was born for this. Born to be an ambassador to others. I think it would make her mighty proud of me. Well, she wasn’t with me but still, I was going to do this one for my sweet mother.

It was then that the mother turned back to her little boy, still frozen and teary-eyed at the table, and asked so lovingly, “What is the matter son?”

I took a breath and prepared to intervene when the boy began to cry and said to his mother, ” It’s Jesus;…….and he’s hurt.”.

Listen to your mother, and get a haircut. Okay?


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. David Hightower
    Jan 19, 2013 @ 14:12:45

    Another great story, Jay. Loved the ending. I sure didn’t see it coming. Humor and compassion, what a powerful combination.


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