Sometimes the smallest thing can make the largest impression. Last Wednesday in Houston, it was a quick picture and a firm handshake.
Our 39-year-old son Drew (who happens to have Down’s syndrome) and I decided to attend a political rally. Marco Rubio was holding a pre-debate rally near (in Houston terms) our home.
Drew has always been keenly interested in politics. We joke that we’re the only family in America that has had to use cable’s parental block on C-Span! By the time we entered the ballroom, we with others were routed to a front row position on the back side of the stage. When Marco entered the packed room, Drew immediately extended his hand, but Sen. Rubio was facing the opposite side of the pathway. With total confidence Drew said, “Don’t worry mom, I’ll get him on the way out.”
And so we waited. But while we waited, we listened. And what we heard was not the Marco Rubio we’d seen on TV! I was immediately impressed with his demeanor, and what he had to say, how he said it, and the natural way he interacted with the crowd.
As we stood there, I said a little silent prayer, that I could snag him for a picture with Drew, who was hanging on every word. As the speech wound down, and the photographers closed in, I’ll admit, I temporarily lost hope that my son would be able to make eye contact with Rubio. And, even if he did, would Rubio dismiss him without a second thought?
But, while our son has a developmental disability, he makes up for it with a personality bigger than most. As Marco approached, surrounded by press and security, Drew leaned out and shouted, “Marco, I need a picture!” The candidate looked at him, and gave us the biggest smile, then stopped and leaned in towards Drew for the best picture ever. It was real. He was real. And everyone around us witnessed a very special moment in time.
I posted the photo on Twitter, and the Rubio camp re-tweeted it. One person snarked that Rubio was exploiting a vulnerable group. Nothing could be farther from the truth! We are proud of that picture, and I believe that Marco Rubio is too. It’s a highlight of Drew’s life! That 15 seconds in time, and all that came after it, said so much.
Contrast this with Donald Trump’s horrific mocking of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has a musculoskeletal disorder. How one treats those among us who are different is an indicator of character. A glimpse into the heart of the man. Trump is not just a flamboyant candidate who says outrageous things. Trump is, in every sense of the word, a bully. #NeverTrump took on real meaning for our family this week.