The Mighty Logo

When a Stranger Gave a 'Pity Gift' to My Son With a Disability

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

My son and I went to Chuck E. Cheese a few weekends ago. We don’t go often, and it’s an enormous treat when we do. This particular time, my daughter (who is six years older than my son) was at a sleepover, and I promised Luca we would go to see “Chucks” as Luca calls him while Sissy was away.

We usually go as soon as they open the doors. It is easier for my son to maneuver his wheelchair around when 50 other people aren’t in there surrounding him. But I didn’t drop Lillian off until close to 4 p.m. on a Saturday so away we went to a crowded Chuck E. Cheese.

Luca is 5, so he doesn’t care nor understand the concept of tickets equal prizes. He wants to play, eat pizza, and play some more. If he gets tickets, awesome; if not, he couldn’t care less. He is playing his heart out.

Something different happened this time.

We had arrived and were making our way through when a mom and child began staring. No, this isn’t the different part. People stare all the time at Luca. You don’t see children in wheelchairs all the time. I get it. We ignore it and go about our way.

However, this duo did not stop staring. Then they chatted for a second about something and began to walk over. I am always ready to answer questions about Luca or listen to their statements or whatever they wish to discuss. I have heard all kinds of things.

Instead of questioning Luca’s abilities or telling me some cliche uplifting phrases, they wanted to give Luca a toy ball the child had won.

A Pity Ball.

The ball was being given to him because he is disabled. They were giving him a toy because they felt sorry for him.

I politely declined, but they insisted. So I lied. I told the mother Luca was allergic to the material the ball is made of, and that ended the conversation.

I want to point out that I understand it was a thoughtful gesture, and they meant no ill-will, but if I allowed this gift to be given, I would set a precedent.

I didn’t want Luca to accept the ball. He shouldn’t receive hand-outs just because he has a disability. I do not want him to think that he is entitled to things because of his disability. He can earn a ball — or anything else he wants to for that matter.

No one should feel sorry for him. There are days his disability wins, but we never let it consume us.

Luca is an active 5-year-old who participates in adaptive sports, attends kindergarten, and works very hard to accomplish things. He can do anything else another child can do — period.

Originally published: November 28, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home