My daughter and I (with my service dog) decided to have lunch while on a shopping spree. We entered a restaurant and followed the host to our table. He made an obvious point of saying the words “Special section”. An alarm went off in my head. What did he mean by “Special”? We sat in this section before when the place was nearly full to near capacity–nothing special here. So I dismissed the “specialness”. Perhaps they were getting a large party and needed a certain area. Maybe I misunderstood his words. As we ate, we noticed something else. We were the only ones in that “special section”, other than a couple employees sitting a few tables away, apparently on break. Others came in and were seated in the main area, not off to the side like us. The waitress was smiling and attentive to others, but avoided our table like the plague. Our waitress’ continued sour expression said more than she realized that day.
I have been in different public facilities that have had negative attitudes displayed from the employees and certain patrons. I have also been places where we had very friendly and positive experiences. I could have become very angry at the negative behaviors. However, I chose to think that the individuals involved simply did not know or understand about service dog teams. After 3 years, there are very few issues that occur. More people have become aware of service animals.
These experiences make me think of other people in the various communities that are misunderstood because of culture, gender, disability, military status, etc. The discrimination that is experienced, is it intentional or unintentional? Both exist in the world. Was this taught from experiences or ignorance?
I’ve learned from others. We cannot change others. We can only change ourselves. How we react is up to us. We are free to be negative or positive. We can choose to walk away, make a scene, or teach. We can choose to bear the shackles of a grudge or the freedom to forgive. I have decided to liberate myself from the negative by being more positive. I prefer to teach and forgive. I am still learning. I am free. I choose to remain unshackled and free.