I’m back! Four pounds lighter, perhaps a few inches smaller and feeling very pleased with myself for surviving the Whole30. Thanks for the votes of confidence!
Today, I’m using my column for something other than what’s become a bit of my personal blog post. Instead, I’m going to share both my disappointment and my hope.
As you know if you’re a regular reader of my stuff, I am an optimist and convinced that we live in a special place populated by amazing people who can do anything for this community they put their mind to. I am a glass half-full, rah rah, eternal optimist. Until something happens that shakes my faith in my neighbors, hurts my heart and demands that I examine it.
A family friend and her boyfriend were driving out Beaver Creek Road in mid-January. The road was snow packed and although he wasn’t driving fast, he was driving too fast for an unexpected sharp turn. Their car started to slide, he overcorrected, it slid the other way and they hit a tree. Thankfully, though the car was totaled, the airbags deployed and they walked away with bruises. Here’s the part that was even more unbelievable — a car was following them on this road when they slid into the tree. It didn’t stop to see if they were OK. No, that person drove on. Two other cars also drove right by their totaled vehicle and stranded selves.
When she told me the story, I kept denying it. “No way! That’s not who we are! Sheridan County people wouldn’t do that and certainly not someone from Wyoming. We stop. We check,” I said. Turns out I was wrong three times over.
So that shook me. Then I heard about the Dad and Daughter Dance. This is a lovely event where dads and their daughters get dressed up and have a night out. What a wonderful, memorable time for them.
Unless you are the dad of a special needs daughter who is 13, paralyzed on one side of her body and maybe doesn’t act like the other 13-year-olds there. She’s dressed up too and so happy to be at the dance. She is friendly, outgoing and has never met a stranger. So it was fortunately lost on her (although not her dad) that many other dads and their daughters not only scoffed at her but ignored her attempts to be friendly. What could have been a tremendous opportunity for kindness and inclusion, instead was demoralizing, shaming and sad.
Yes, the optimist in me knows that there were a few kids who were kind and welcoming to this dad and his daughter. And I am grateful to them for the example they should have been.
When my mom was angry with me, nothing hurt more than when she said she was disappointed in me. Maybe it’s the Catholic guilt but it cut far deeper than any rant she could have unleashed.
So I’m disappointed in us. I thought, and continue to think, that we are better people than this. It’s why I am still convinced that creating a Dementia Friendly Community can succeed here. That Sheridan County can be the model other cities and even states look to as a shining example. An example of hope triumphing over despair, of tolerance, understanding, patience and welcome. Because if you are understanding of those with dementia, it’s not a big leap to be kind to those with developmental disabilities; patient with non-native speakers; welcoming to people who speak with an accent; the car that pulls over when someone is stuck or stranded.
Let’s be those people every day. It takes no more effort than being mean or thoughtless but it makes all the difference to someone else. And if you think about it, it makes all the difference to you too.
Amy Albrecht is the executive director of the Center for a Vital Community.