Tuesday, May 28, 2013

There's a Difference Between Tolerance and Acceptance

"Tolerance is another word for indifference." 
--W. Somerset Maugham

Sometimes a mother's heart gets rubbed raw.
Sometimes she witnesses some sort of interaction with her child, like a bird observing her nest from a distant tree branch, and an ache begins.

Patrick lives in a world of acceptance.
He's been fully included in his school since kindergarten and now he's in 7th grade.  The kids know him there.  They encourage him.  They support him.  He has quite a solid group of kids that he can say are friendly to him every single day and he has a couple good friends.  
For ANY 7th grader, that's darn well wonderful, let alone someone with a disability.

But in other parts of his life he has to get out there and mingle with other kids who don't know him as well.  He loves to sing and act and participate in plays or musicals. Those he performs in after school with a wide cross section of kids.  He's gearing up for a big performance and had his dress rehearsal tonight.

I brought him his dinner thinking he might need a little fuel to carry him through the long practice.  I brought along some ice cream sandwiches for the rest of the kids.
I found him sitting a distance off by himself while the rest of the cast was gearing up to take a cast picture.  

Sometimes you're just a 7th grader with angst.
Sometimes you're a kid that is easy to overlook.
Sometimes you're tired and hungry and just plum out of the oomph it takes to be you today.
In this moment, I'm sure it was a lovely combination of all three.
But it was hard to see...
and probably even harder to live.

Patrick perked up when I got there...and right there is the grace in this story.
[Can I say for the record that I LOVE this about him...he doesn't hold back when it comes to the people he loves. 
He greeted me with gusto.  I always feel a certain 
Ro-Sham-Bo competition when this happens -- like I have to shazam-out my rock to his paper -- and I always, always lose.  
The guy has greetings down to an art.]

Instantly, he joined the cast picture.  
He thanked me for my sandwich dinner and was thrilled to pass out ice cream sandwiches.
The kids were very polite.  Every single one of them said thank you.  
They were genuine in their appreciation.

And that's when it hit me.
It's not enough to just tolerate someone's presence.
There is an entirely different vibe to acceptance and you must feel cocooned in a comfy fleece blanket on a windy winter night when you are appreciated.

Being accepted is something every human craves desperately.
Watching junior high kids with their hair styles, clothing options, and music selections you get a bit of insight into how bad they want to feel part of "it".
It's a bit heartbreaking.

Watching Patrick go through it, there's a layer of sadness in addition to the angst.
It's not enough to just be tolerated, especially now.
Right now, acceptance is what he needs.

But not just him.

Patrick is my mirror to the rest of the world.
He's my headlights in the darkness.
With him along for the ride, I notice more.
I am acutely aware of when I am merely tolerating people and when I hand them the key to my city and smile or laugh with acceptance.

I can't help it.
With my new eyes, I notice the old lady alone in the waiting room and pause to make eye contact with her, forgoing my personal luxurious magazine moment for a chance to dole it out.
I can feel the sting of being left out for people who can't speak our language fluently.
I cringe when I see anyone on the sidelines of life merely being tolerated...the gay, the homeless, the sick, the obese, you name it...we have a lot of people on the sidelines.

It's good to have a seat at the table...but you need a fork, a serving of food and someone next to you making conversation to be a part of the party. 

That's our next step...serving the people at the party and making real conversation.
Let's move toward acceptance.
Let's watch ourselves and notice how often we send out the message of real appreciation, 
not just tolerance.

Tolerance is overrated.
We all need to be valued and cherished.
Accepted and Appreciated.
I'm going for the two A's...how about you?


  1. Dear Beth....so amazingly beautiful as always.....your thoughts have been mirroring what has been going on in my head.....and my heart has been desiring a way to build more of this acceptance in my heart and in the hearts of all within our school community....thank you for sharing....you touch many.

  2. Thank you to whoever you are! :) Come on, be brave next time and let me know. :) I'd love to brainstorm ideas with you about how to really build this into our school community. ~Beth