Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What is a Hero?

Recently in the news headlines was a story about a waiter who stood up for a little boy with Down syndrome after another customer in the restaurant made the comment that "special needs children need to be special somewhere else". Michael Garcia, their waiter, refused to serve that customer & they left the restaurant.

The stories, like this one, have come up time & time again on the internet, Down syndrome forums & on Facebook. The other day I punched the words "Heroic waiter boy with Down syndrome" into google & was instantly rewarded with 211000 hits. My first reaction was "That's nice, the waiter did the right thing" but as the week went by & the stories, kept coming up I found myself stewing about it.

Michael Garcia did the right thing - he stood up for a fellow human being who was being treated fairly. What bothers me is that this simple act of human decency is being treated as a heroic act simply because the little boy named  Milo has Down syndrome.

Again, what Michael did was totally appropriate in my opinion but hero is the person who goes above & beyond what is expected to do the right thing. Someone who does something the average person wouldn't do & wouldn't be expected to do, perhaps even something as drastic as placing their own life in danger.

If we expect our kids with Down syndrome to be treated appropriately I think we need to expect that treatment for them & they need to expect that treatment for themselves. People who stand up for them aren't heroes.  They are decent people who are behaving honorably & isn't that how we should behave around everyone? Most importantly, isn't that what our family members & friends with disabilities should expect? That they should have the same respect from society in general as everyone else would expect?

Michael Garcia isn't a hero in my opinion & we shouldn't be celebrating this as a heroic deed needing applause & accolades.  He is a good man & while we should be appreciating that he did what was appropriate but this shouldn't be unusual enough behaviour to make a news story. Everyone should feel outraged when another human is treated this unfairly  & we should also have the guts to act on it.

............ to Michael, if you ever chance to read this, thank you.  You did a good job.

To the customer who started this with his mean, bullying words, I hope the public outcry has helped you to understand how wrong you are & that you feel the shame that you rightfully should.

After I wrote this, & before I decided whether it would annoy too many people & if I was going to post it or not, I stumbled across this post on Dave Hingsburger's blog entitled Rolling Around in my Head which I read occasionally. 

Wow - he made a good point.  I don't always agree with Dave but I often do & he always gets me thinking which is great. I wrote a post entitled I am my Daughter's Voice about a year & a half ago & addressed the fact that although my daughter couldn't stand up for herself yet that eventually when she was old enough that I expected her to do so as well as to stand up for others who aren't able to do it themselves. There  will always be some people with disabilities who aren't able to speak for themselves & that is when people such as Michael Garcia need to speak up but its also when you & I need to speak up & one day when K is old enough I expect her to speak up too.  Not because we are heroes but because that it simply appropriate thing to do because people with disabilities deserve respect.

I'd love to hear your comments on either my posts or Dave's. 


  1. I haven't really thought about it much, but after reading your post, I have to say I completely agree with your perspective. Kind of a shame that our world's standards have dropped so low that doing what is right and what should be expected is no longer the norm, but "heroic".

    I reiterate---good job, Michael. More people should be like you---so much so that "heroism" becomes commonplace.

  2. The waiter put his job on the line when he expelled those customers from the restaurant. It was a clear and undeniable expression that the bullying would not be acceptable.
    Standing up for Milo would have been telling them "that's inappropriate to say and hurtful to that little boy.". He went the step beyond by refusing to serve paying customers.

  3. Thank you for sharing Laura. I'm so glad that you not only wrote this but that you shared it as well. Because it is written genuinely... authentically... it speaks volumes. Like all situations the word hero is all about a “depends” situation and the entire picture needs to be looked at. As you have pointed out, this particular story is not specific to a child with a so-called societal special need, but about man’s inhumanity to man. As a responsible member of society, I need to be accountable for all of my actions, including speaking up for someone who is unable to speak up for herself. Is this heroic? Depends…