One place I can commonly be found is at the library, and that's not a surprise considering I volunteer there. I gets me up and moving, and I enjoy the work: Typically putting away books and tidying. The area I most commonly work in tends to be the children's room, which I love aside from the low shelves and the messes that appear as you're not looking. Regardless, I adore the library: Books are one of my favourite ways to learn. But I know too well it's usually people who teach us the most important lessons.
In my first few weeks there, I met a woman and her young son. The children's room was filled with children of every age playing or doing homework, and many parents supervising. I was shelving DVDs when the woman came with the little boy, the both of them with a spring in their step. The woman spoke with an excited voice, pointing out paintings the children had done earlier and the different sections. The boy didn't speak but he smiled at everything. The two bounced into the DVD section on an adventure to find all the Thomas the Train DVDs. I smiled at the two as I put films on the correct shelf when the woman smiled back and said, "He's autistic and doesn't talk." I didn't know why she explained that to me, but I accepted it, "I used to play with a boy who was autistic and didn't speak." She relaxed after that. When the boy found Thomas, he jumped up and down and made joyful noises. "He's just trying to speak," she told me. "He sounds very happy." I said.
It wasn't until they left the aisle that I understood why she took the time to explain why her son acted different. As they walked, parents and their children stared and even pointed at the very happy boy. The mother distracted her son, pointing at murals and posters and anything that was aware from the stares. It was easier to teach one person and help them understand than a whole group. To protect her son, she shielded him from what didn't understand him. She keeps him happy and unaware that people stare, and even make fun of him. Meanwhile I watch them deep in a conversation that is only verbal on one side but deep and meaningful for both. I've never seen that little boy frown, except once when someone scattered the Thomas DVDs. I hated that frown so much, I personally make sure all the Thomas the Trains' are kept on the same shelf.
I don't know why others don't accept difference, and make others feel like intruders. But we must stop putting all our energy into complaining that others don't understand, and instead put it on those who do. Though the anger that filled me when people stared at the boy was intense, it will never be as strong as the happiness I see when he and his mum bounce happily into library.