There is a political philosophy which states that everyone must adhere to a ‘social contract’ and leave behind their instincts to obey their own impulses and solely look after themselves. Rousseau’s idea of ‘le contrat social’ formed the basis of socialist political theory which encourages democratic and altruistic thought.
This could not be truer than when considering someone who is perceivably smaller, weaker, different. After all, as so many people have said,”we will be judged by the way we treat our weakest members”.
And how poignant in these Covid times when we consider how we are forgoing simple pleasures to protect our most vulnerable. We are obliged now to adhere to a different social contract, not only to think about our most needy but to actively deprive ourselves of things we enjoy for the sake of others. And how does that make you feel?
But average rules for average people means that noone ever fits in! Someone who is average in one thing might find themselves weaker or stronger in another. The average does not exist. And is it not harder to go at the pace of the slowest than to run as fast as you can. This takes higher order skills of patience and understanding.
Rousseau stated that “when the voice of duty takes the place of physical impulses and right of appetite, does man, who so far had considered only himself, find that he is forced to act on different principles, and to consult his reason before listening to his inclinations.” What makes him a man is setting himself apart from his animal instincts to survive and think only of himself and to develop empathy and understanding for his fellow man.
And so, in these abnormal times and subsequently, we should consider what makes us human. We should look after and care for those more vulnerable or less fortunate than ourselves.
Show empathy and understanding.
Trudy, when confronted with ableism, does not falter or give in and what is it teaching us? That it is okay to blatantly ignore the needs of someone less able than ourselves because it doesn’t suit our purpose? That we don’t have the patience to wait for someone who meanders and dawdles at every daisy or every hiding place. Are we not missing out on seeing life through a different lens? On spotting the daisy?
Trudy may be slower than her friends, smaller than her peers but she deserves to be accepted for who she is. Does it not say more about our adaptability as humans to adhere to a different social contract than Trudy’s ability or lack thereof to fit into a world of averages? It is this very world that is disabling her, making her unable to execute basic activities such as walking or talking and not her perceived lack of ability.
We need to listen when she tries to talk, hear what she’s got to say, wait for her whilst she catches up.
If we don’t, her world will become smaller, marginalised, full of children ‘like her’, the ‘less than average’, ‘the misfits’. And all the work we do to include and raise awareness for children and people like Trudy becomes redundant. We’ve come too far to go back there again.
Listen. Wait. Be patient.