Readers should know 'r-word' is hurtful, should not be used
Editor, the Advocate:
I vaguely remember the scene on the cabin front porch, more than 20 years ago at camp. I was laughing, cutting up, and amidst my conversation, I said, "That is retarded." I used it (ignorantly) in a degrading manner, the same way that anyone today uses it to insinuate someone is inferior, not equal to their self.
I was stopped in my tracks and taught a lesson I have never forgotten. A man gently and compassionately talked to me in a way that has lead me to never use the R-word again. I do not remember his exact words, but he told me someone very close to him was mentally handicapped, and it hurt his heart to hear me say that word in a derogatory context.
He told me I seemed like a bright, joyful young lady. He felt led to teach me how hurtful my words were so that I would not make myself look mean and so that I could help teach others why it was wrong. His sincerity, gentleness and compassion touched me. I felt his pain; I saw his suffering. I didn't want to hurt him; I didn't want to hurt his family. I was just a silly, immature kid. I hadn't realized it was wrong.
In that moment, I was shown the truth about the R-word. I have never said it again. I cringe every time I hear someone use it the same way I did that day, but I have never been as brave as that man to teach others the same lesson in the same gentle, compassionate way that he did.
March 5 was Spread the Word to Stop the Word Day. I am taking the pledge to share this story, to be brave and to educate others who cross my path how to improve their language and edit the R-word out of their vocabulary. I will do my best to share this truth, as it was shared with me.
Pledge respect through your words and actions; read more about how to create a more accepting society at r-word.org. (#teammallory)
Julie Hughes, Victoria