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Letter: A little patience, understanding for the holidays

Thursday December 25, 2008

Terri Johnson

The News Herald - "We don't care about the young folks talkin' 'bout the young style. And we don't care about the old folks talkin' 'bout the old style, too. And we don't care about our own folks talkin' 'bout our own stuff. All we care about is talking – talking only me and you."
"Young Folk" byy Peter, Bjorn & John

So goes the chorus of a current merry popular song on the radio. I wonder if it has anything to do with our attitude at Christmas?

In this season of shoppers' hustling and bustling, have we forgotten that this happens at a different pace for different ones of us? Some of us, after all, are young, old or not "normal" and just can't always keep up with the pace of modern life.

For instance, I have a disability called Parkinson's disease. I mention this reality, because once I read that Parkinson's patients are their own worse enemies, because we tend to suffer silently. What's wrong with that, one might ask? No one likes a whiner. One consequence of silence, however, may be to try and be invisible, to fit in, to not call attention – no matter the cost.

And there is a cost. It causes research of diseases to fail by not raising enough money to find cures. Parkinson's disease is the leading neurological illness among adults – occurring in more victims than AIDs, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's disease – but gets far less money for research than these other better-known diseases.

Parkinson's also causes millions of stricken people to hide alone in their homes in order to avoid being seen struggling in public. This leads to shame, isolation and depression. And all that the disabled person may need from others is a little compassion and patience.

Yesterday, in a check-out line in a local store, I was fumbling, as usual, with coins in my change purse. The little beggars just wouldn't come out into my hand so I could hand them to the clerk.

I felt my ears burn. I thought of how I must be perceived by those behind me in line – sloppy, older than my age (which is old enough already), incompetent, stupid, inconsiderate of others who are on a time schedule or all of the above?

The nice young clerk made a genuine effort to help. She carefully sat the bag upwards on the counter and turned the bag's handles out in the direction of my waiting fingers. Thankfully, I was then able to turn and walk, or actually, stumble out.

But I faced another hurdle before I could get to the relative anonymity of my car. The door. It seemed to take forever to shove the stiff door open without dropping my packages.

I heard a man behind me remark, "Well it's a good thing I'm retired!"

To which my polite clerk, to me by now a hero, replied, "Why is that sir?"

He answered in what seemed to me to be a purposely loud voice: "Because of how you have to wait on some people!"

Now I may be too sensitive, and may have misjudged the comment completely, but may I ask, is the world in such a hurry that we can't allow for some understanding or at least quiet respect for another's difficulties?

After all, it's Christmas. Can we not have the hustle and bustle of the season interrupted a few minutes for someone else's sake? Maybe we all could polish up our manners; even sing a new song...

"We care about the young folks... the old folks... our folks... the disabled..."

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