Despite our best efforts, each Sunday we were habitually late. The few Sundays my family managed to go out the door with time to spare, we would become caught on the wrong side of a railroad crossing counting the hundred or so cargo cars itching for the caboose to pass. Despite the fact that mass had already begun, my mother would prance down the middle aisle insisting that we all slide into the front pew to the left of the altar. My mother was bold. Being bold was just practice for defending what is right and just in this world. We were all to meet our share of injustice, but it was my brother who was particularly susceptible to attract the cruelty of others.
The very first time I was aware of this injustice toward my brother was a Sunday morning that we were late to church. My mother waved her arms to hurry us along and we all moved as fast as we could in our Sunday finary. (My brother having Cerebral Palsy has a functional gait that looks quite a bit different than average. In order to walk, he engages his whole body to thrust each leg forward.) I noticed a group of two or three kids snickering and pointing at my brother while one of them mimicked his movements. My mother held my hand a bit tighter and grew taller as she raised her chin, keeping her gaze forward. We all moved in closer to each other. I swallowed hard and blinked through the tears. There are different ways to be bold.
My brother never complains. He has never considers himself a victim, but since that Sunday morning so long ago, I have appointed myself his protector. The other night while dining at one of his favorite restaurants, he told of how the former host of the restaurant would mimic his gait and laugh at the way he walked. As my sister shared this with me tonight, I suddenly became ill-sickened by how cruel people can be. I cried wondering how often this happens to my brother. There are different ways to be bold.