Unlikely friendship

What the headlines can say about our values

Why would it be newsworthy for three people to be friends?

Apparently, if one of them has Down syndrome, it’s newsworthy.

The mom of the girl with Down syndrome says: "They don't look at her as a kid with Down syndrome," Fabian-Moore said. "They just look at her as [a] friend."

Okay, so why are we reading about it? Three people being friends from kindergarten to high school graduation is nice, but it’s not news.

These unlikely friendship stories are fantastically successful clickbait. We can ooh and aww at the cat and the duck that are “best friends.” Let’s not forget that people with intellectual disabilities are people who are capable of friendship, just like the rest of us. To think this is newsworthy makes it very clear that the journalists, editors, and readers don’t believe they are.

I could use some positive news as much as any of us. Still, I’d love to see more people take the time to make sure we’re not boosting our spirits with news that comes at the cost of other people.

Many of us hold problematic beliefs, even if we don’t consider ourselves ableist and even when we really don’t want to be that sort of person. When we grow up in and live in an ableist society it seeps into our brains and slips into our thoughts and actions in ways we’re often unaware of.

It’s not easy to hear that I’ve offended someone, especially when I feel like I’m being accused of doing something wrong. It’s even harder to be the person going out of their way to point out the problems with my behavior and explain the hidden repercussions of my actions.

I didn’t invent the system; I still have to take responsibility for my actions within it.

Realizing that I’ve done something offensive is an opportunity to change my behavior in the future. Taking responsibility for the ways I’ve harmed people doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. It means I’m a person who’s learning to do better.

I’ve been trying to remove offensive terms from my vocabulary. It’s a real challenge! Sometimes I wonder if paying attention to not using certain terms makes them more likely to slip out of my mouth, à la Don’t Think of an Elephant.

The Lungevity Foundation in the US has a free online summit coming up June 25 & 26th. They’ll have oncology navigators and other family caregivers to answer questions about providing care for people with lung and other cancers. Registration is required.

The latest Alzheimer’s medication to be approved in the US might force changes to prescription drug coverage for Medicare, Tricare, and private insurance. I’m hoping for change, although I’m wary of who will be left behind in the process. Even when change is ultimately good, it can create plenty of new problems.

There’s reason to hope that competition for workers in historically low-paid fields will reduce the number of people earning wages too low to cover basic expenses and increase the number of jobs that come without access to tax-privileged retirement savings and insurance. In the meantime, it’s harder than ever to find professional care workers.