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How a Child Taught Me to React When People Stare Because of Parkinson’s Disease


People stare at unusual things, right? Things they are perhaps not expecting to encounter. Children too; they are the worst culprits, aren’t they? They often have to be pulled away by the hand by equally inquisitive but more refined adults. This is natural behavior; children want to learn about the world, what’s right and wrong, what’s so-called “normal behavior” and more importantly how to react to situations they may never have encountered before.

I remember one particular occasion vividly. It was when I had relatives visiting over Christmastime. My Parkinson’s disease was so bad I had to crawl out of my bedroom to go downstairs. This was actually a regular occurrence at this time, and even my parents’ two Labradors didn’t bother investigating as they considered it quite “normal” to see me on all fours. Walking down the landing was my cousin’s young daughter, who was astonished to see an “adult” crawling down the hallway in her way. She came closer and stood, mouth agape, staring at me, her gaze barely moving from this bizarre scene she had happened upon whilst making her way downstairs to have her breakfast. Slowly, she mustered the courage and asked in a very concerned manner if I was OK and why I was on the floor.

I asked her if she had ever seen the film “The Wizard of Oz.” She had. I said I was like the Tin Man without his oil, and my body had frozen up so I could barely move, and that once my medication kicked in I would be back to normal. Happy with my explanation, she continued downstairs and went to have her breakfast. She never stared at me again and we are now the very best of friends.

This encounter taught me several things:

1. Never feel you cannot explain why you look or walk as you do.

2. Be natural, try not to feel self-conscious or angry, and don’t feel there is an agenda in why people stare.

3. Children always stare and try to make sense of their world.

4. People staring is a chance to educate them.

5. It’s not necessarily the information you’re delivering that will have the most impact; it’s the context with which that information is given.

Getty Images photo via bernardbodo.