In honor of tomorrow’s Spread the Word to End the Word annual day of awareness, read a powerful story from Jennifer Marcello of Special Olympics Illinois. Everyday, we have the power to change attitudes and actions towards people with intellectual disabilities.
I recently had an experience and wanted to share it with you. I was meeting with a vendor trying to put together items for our Spread the Word to End the Word campaign. This is a vendor that has been a friend to Special Olympics Illinois and tries to provide quality items at low cost pricing. He understands the concept behind our Spread the Word campaign and is helping to design a “Stomp the R-word” theme that we will be using. During our conversations he slipped and said the word “retarded”. Before I could start the education process that instantaneously happens upon hearing that word, he caught himself, and could not be more apologetic. We had a brief conversation about the campaign, its purpose, and exactly why the campaign was so important and then moved on with the remainder of our previous conversation.
I received this email later that evening:
It was great to see you today and I appreciate the opportunity to provide you with the products for the 2013 “Stomp the R-Word” day. So I was feeling bad today about my slip up. Really bad. I wondered how often in my life I’ve made ignorant remarks and not known or even cared to wonder about the ramifications of my words. I try to watch what I say and usually can. Today got me thinking. Here I am sitting in a conference room with Jen Marcello going over products that will all say STOMP the R-WORD and I said “retarded”. I felt like such a hypocrite and I realized that I usually do an ok job of watching what I say, but a very poor job of helping others watch what they say. That word (along with others I don’t care for) are used all the time around our office.
Well, as soon as I got back to the office I gathered everyone together and made an office rule. Anyone who uses the words “retard, retarded”, and I named some others – will have to donate $250 to Special Olympics. If they don’t have the money, they will volunteer a weekend and our company will donate the money. Everyone is on board… So I’m spreading the word to end the word today.
In this day and age when so many people talk the talk, this gentleman and this company have decided to walk the walk. The have truly “bought in” to the mission of the campaign and all we do at Special Olympics. I share this story not to make him feel bad for his remark, but to show that what we do does make an impact on others.