Honouring Patience and Courage

by Heather Manwaring
Tasmania, Australia

Honouring Patience and Courage

In December of 1990, I was 15 and working my first real job in a music store. My duties included pretty much everything you would expect, from shop displays to cleaning, but my favourite part was serving customers. Even though many years have passed, one lady stands out in my mind as clearly as if it were yesterday.

It was the usual Christmas mayhem; if you have ever been shopping around Christmas or if you’ve ever served behind a cash register, you’ll understand the scene. People who would normally be bright and happy suddenly become so focused on what they are doing that common courtesy gets lost and short, sharp critical comments abound. Parents scream at their kids, kids scream at anyone going by, and tempers are frayed. “Please” and “Thank you” become just memories.

In the middle of all this, a mother and her daughter entered the store. The daughter wanted to buy something, so her mum kindly and patiently waited as she walked around and around the store looking bright-eyed at everything. Once she had chosen her item, the girl asked her mum what to do next.

Quietly, without fuss, the mother explained the whole process of making a purchase, from waiting in line to passing over the money, waiting for and checking the change that was given. This took some time, and a few people around us fidgeted and made snide remarks under their breath. The mother took it all in stride and, step by step, helped her daughter through it.

When I put myself in the shoes of the hurried shoppers who were waiting, I can almost understand their frustration. But I will never forget the smile in the girl’s eyes when she made her first  purchase or the look of pride in her mother’s eyes.

And I will never forget her mother thanking me for treating her daughter as normal, or the way they smiled at each other as they walked out hand in hand. Mother and daughter. As they reached the door they turned and called “Thank you.” I answered with “My pleasure.”

If only they knew how much I meant those two words, for that was the day I learned something new: people who are impacted by birth differences such as Down’s syndrome are not just those who are born with it. Brave parents and family members must cope not only with any difficulties their relative has, but surmount the prejudices so often shown these children.

I was so impressed with this mother for her courage to put her daughter’s needs first. She taught me to honour all relatives caring for people with special needs. They often go unnoticed and unthanked, yet deserve our deepest congratulations.

Originally published as HeroicStories #453 on Oct 16, 2003

5 thoughts on “Honouring Patience and Courage”

  1. I raised 2 special needs kids, and I can only say thank you for the article.
    The heroes are not just the parents and family, or even the “special” people themselves, whose work is harder than we “normal” people can ever understand. It also took courage for the young clerk to “…clearly understand and surmount the prejudices…”. I salute the clerks, waitresses, other parents and people on the street that treat my kids as normally as possible. That is the finest you can give.

  2. Thank you for the story. It seems sad that a season that should be filled with love for our fellow man can at times be so much less than that. This story gives me not only a mother’s love for her child, but the young clerk’s loving nature. Thanks for that Christmas gift.

  3. We can all learn something about love from who the real “normal” people are. Last weekend My wife and I took her two special needs brothers to a professional football game, a first for all three of them. I saw so many people rushing to get nowhere fast, and upset by the least little things, when the four of us just had a great time. A guy at the stadium stopped us before the game and gave William a football and told him what a great day it was to be at the game. Our team wasn’t doing very well. And, many sitting around us were so negative and rude we were glad when they started leaving in the third quarter. We stayed and cheered our team till the very end. Our team lost “big-time” but we didn’t care, we still had a great time and enjoyed just being together. This was a good story and I am glad I now know the real meaning of special people.

  4. This story is the reason why I look forward to your blogs so much. It isn’t that the story evokes feelings of warm fuzziness and sentimentality, but that it forces me to consider a small moment in another perspective and learn from it.

    My respect goes out to the mother for the strength and patience she displayed and to Heather Mainwaring for putting the lesson in front of us so gently.

  5. In my younger days, I was a professional ballet dancer. As part of a small company called Looking Glass Dance Theatre, for three to four months of the year, we toured the Ontario elementary schools, performing dance theatre for children in elementary school gymnasiums, two performances a day. The children loved our shows, especially the parts where they could participate. But the audience I most remember, was when we performed for special needs children who were seated on the floor in the front two rows. As we danced, we couldn’t help but see the ecstatic expression on their faces and the way they participated by swaying, and clapping, as though they too were dancing. These children retain an innocence and love of life and music, that is often quickly lost in so-called normal children.


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