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June 21, 1991 - Image 40

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-06-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

OPINION

Adding A lAt Of Value,

Two Scared Teens
Fear The Unknown

RONELLE GRIER

p

..„

Looking for a pre-owned car? We'll deliver the lot

right to your mailbox. From near-new Cadillacs to
dependable Hondas, from slightly used Caravans to
vintage Corvettes, The Jewish News brings you the best
and latest models offered by area dealers and private
owners.
Just look for the new automotive section in The
Jewish News' Amazing Marketplace classifieds. And
drive away with the perfect vehicle.

Automotive Classifieds. The Perfect Vehicle.

THE JEWISH NEWS

354-5959

CRAZY
SATURDAY
SALE

They don't
look pretty,
but chimps
go ape
for them

D0141 MONKEY AROUND!

with ad

50%
OFF
ALWAYS

SUCH A DEAL!

BIRMINGHAM

The Corners
13 Mile & Southfield Rd.
645-0065
LINCOLN PARK

Lincoln Park Shopping Center
Opening
Soon

40

FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 1991

SOUTHFIELD

Lincoln Square Plaza
26135 Greenfield & 10% Mi.
557-1022
ST. CLAIR SHORES

The Shores
Opening
Soon

OUTLET
CLAWSON

Bywood Plaza
560 14 Mile, E. of Crooks
280-4900
ANN ARBOR/

WESTGATE
Opening
Soon

CRAZY
SATURDAY
SATE

with ad

Men's,
Women's &
Children's
Clothing

LIVONIA

Livonia Plaza
30959 5 Mile
458-1580
SHELBY TOWNSHIP

Lakeside
Hall Road Crossings
Opening Soon

rejudice and false as-
sumptions show up in
the most surprising
places. Like my friendly
neighborhood bike path.
There I was, breathlessly
engaged in my best imitation
of a power walk, when I was
stopped by two young girls
pushing a baby carriage.
They needed assistance with
a malfunctioning wheel, and
they had judged me as some-
one who is more familiar with
strollers than stairmasters,
despite my valiant efforts and
well-worn walking shoes.
Judging by their youth and
their total unfamiliarity with
both the stroller and its con-
tents, I guessed them to be
babysitters. We were both
right — for the time being,
anyway.
I stopped to examine the
stroller wheel, which seemed
to be working perfectly, and it
was then that I learned the
real reason they had hailed
me. Apparently they had been
frightened by a man in one of
the nearby retail shops.
"He was retarded, he was
retarded," they said over and
over. "He talked funny, and I
think he's going to come after
us and kill us."
I looked back in the direc-
tion of the shopping center. I
saw nothing out of the or-
dinary, just people coming
and going from their cars to
the various restaurants and
stores.
It was a busy shopping
center in a safe suburban
neighborhood, and outside
the sky had not even begun to
grow dark. The bike path was
filled with many other
walkers, cyclists and joggers.
It seemed an unlikely place
for a madman's attack,
although these days you can
never be sure. I decided to ask
some questions.
"What exactly happened?"
I asked. "Did the man chase
you, or make any threats?"
"We .. ell no," answered the
girl who seemed to be in
charge of both stroller and
baby. "But he kept saying
`hello, and we thought he was
going to come after us."
"What made you think
that?" I asked.
"Well, he talked so funny,"
said the girl's friend. "He just
kept talking to us and smil-
ing, and we got scared."

Ronelle Grier is a West
Bloomfield freelance writer
who covers disability issues
for The Jewish News.

"I'm sure there's nothing to
worry about," I said. "No one
is following you. Nobody
strange is coming in our
direction, and there are lots of
other people around."
The girls were not very con-
soled by my attempts at
reassurance. They said good-
bye and hurried on their way,
presumably anxious to get
home.
Behind my calm words my
brain was racing. I wondered
who they had really seen, and
what had really transpired.
My best guess is that they
had met someone with
developmental disabilities,
someone whose conduct did
not fit the accustomed
"norms" of social behavior.
I thought of all the things I
should have said and didn't. It <
would have been a golden op-
portunity to teach those two
girls something about people
and their differences, some-
thing that may have helped
them be a little less fearful, a
little more tolerant.
I thought of my own 4-year-
old daughter, whose autistic-
like behavior sometimes
makes other children stare
and back away. When they
ask questions, I explain that
she's simply excited, and she
shows her enthusiasm by
flapping her arms and jump-
ing up and down and even
grimacing.
As the parent of a child who
has a disability, I usually feel
it my duty to correct in-
justices wherever I see them,
to replace ignorance and pre-
judice with a little knowledge
and understanding.
Yet I said nothing to those
teen-agers, and to this day I
don't know why. Trying to
change the world and the at-
titudes of the people in it can
be tiring work; maybe I just
needed a rest.
Still, I can't forgive myself
for letting those girls leave
thinking that anyone who
deviates from our narrow
definition of "normal" is
dangerous, someone to be
feared. True, there are harm-
ful people in our society, and
we cannot embrace every
stranger with trust and open
arms. But there are many
more people who are not
dangerous, just different, and
we must embrace these peo-
ple with tolerance and com-
passion, not fear and bigotry.
Somebody should have
enlightened those girls on the
bike path that evening; some-
one should have set them
straight. I wish it had been
me. ❑

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