In a world that I hope can finally demonstrate that all lives matter, it is worth giving examples of those who are ahead of their time. Examples of people and companies reaching out to bring everyone into a circle where truly all lives matter.
It is also worth noting examples of those who are late, pushing people out of the circle. How we treat ourselves now is the world we perpetuate. How we treat ourselves every day will determine whether we will ever live in a world where all lives…including our own…matter.
I want to give just one example of a group of people trying to fit inside the circle, people who, like my daughter Brittany, have special needs. These are people with emotional, mental and/or physical challenges or disabilities.
My daughter has mental and mild physical problems. Against all odds, she is mostly happy, eager to help, and eager to befriend. Throughout his life, there were trials and triumphs that brought tears to my eyes. There were teenagers who weren’t “too cool” to include her in school games and activities so she wouldn’t sit alone. There were the teachers, work coaches, religious leaders and many others who helped her learn to read or dance or just follow instructions. There are the strangers gently guiding her closer to the right side of our neighborhood streets on her three-wheeled bicycle. Finally, there are the companies that have opened their arms to employ him… seemingly just because of their community spirit. These people and companies are ahead of their time in helping all lives matter and perpetuating a kinder world.
One such employer is a local grocery store on River Road. When I learned about Brittany’s job opportunity there, gratitude was an understatement. I wondered how her employer would work with her and train her to be a valuable member of the team. I wondered how she would navigate the aisles. I wondered how the other employees would accept it. But I did not need to wonder – in her grocery store she is loved. What I naively didn’t wonder was how customers would treat her.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take me long to learn that not everyone has time to wait one more breath in a queue for someone with special needs to do the job of a ordinary and seasoned worker. On one particular day, Brittany told me she had made a mistake in bagging; she put the bananas before the oranges. She knew immediately that she had performed poorly. Brittany told me the cashier kindly covered her and fixed the bag. Unfortunately, this was not enough for the client, who had to publicly denounce the error and express her dissatisfaction loud and clear.
It’s a world where some mistakes are a matter of life and death, a world where some mistakes cannot be corrected, and a world where some mistakes take a lifetime to reverse. So in this world that is hopefully working to demonstrate that all lives matter, it’s discouraging to say the least that some people are so worried about bananas and oranges that they’ll publicly berate a special needs employee who still learning to pack the groceries in the best order. Special needs or not, there’s no reason to condescend or point out anyone’s mistakes in public.
May we all learn from my daughter’s employer to help everyone count Let’s put the oranges and bananas aside, so we can truly build an inclusive world.
Kerry Kastler Burt is a longtime resident of St. George. She is the retired Director of Development of Intermountain Healthcare Southwest Region, current Development Coordinator of Conserve Southwest Utah, former member of “The Spectrum Writers Group” and former President of the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce and of the St. George Planning Commission.