Last night, while working a register at work, my husband was high-fived by an intellectually disabled young man who was excited about his mother purchasing cookies. “Cookies! Yeah!” he said, beaming at my husband, who also proclaimed his excitement for cookies. The young man had to have been in his mid to late teens, and he waved at my daughter and me in a friendly fashion as well.
“You’re lucky he didn’t try to kiss you!” remarked the girl working opposite my husband. “He did that to me the other day.” She rolled her makeup-caked eyes as if it were devastating news, something we could all console her about, when all I wanted to do was adolescently roll my eyes back at her. This young man had much more verve, much more love for his life, than she likely ever will. He will never be as bored as she proclaimed, never complain about the rain as she had done; he was bursting with far too much joy for such things.
I understand unwanted affection. I was attacked as a child by an intellectually disabled boy at daycare when I was four years old. I remember getting the shots afterward, the fear I’ve felt toward men, and I don’t like to be touched without my permission. Personal space is incredibly important to me.
But I also understand people like this young man; I have lived with them, worked with them, tutored them in college. Not every one had this same ecstatic outlook—but many did, and many do. I appreciate this kind of open, unadulterated joy in a way that this girl—who was probably just too young to understand it—did not, and it made me a little sad.
What if we all were to embrace every day, every cookie purchase and high five and yes, attractive person, as if it were brand new? As if we had something so wonderful to celebrate, not just on Christmas or a birthday, but in the checkout lane of our local discount store?
High five, young man. I hope that joy permeates through your family and everyone you meet. I hope I can carry that joy, or something like it, in my own, too. I hope the next time I curse the rain, or a runny nose, or the pain of someone who doesn’t understand me, I will remember you, and your absolute happiness over a package of cookies. Thank you for sharing it with us.