This is about one summer when I was traveling around Korea. I was a 21 year old, working 40+ hours a week. I didn’t have time for much between friends and work.

Around this time, though reluctant, my agent asked me if it were possible for me to watch her son, and I politely reminded her that I was a 21-year-old guy, with only two days off a week. Needless to say, I was inclined to decline. Yet being, in my humble opinion, a reasonable and patient person, I still decided to hear her out. It turned out that he was actually 28 but, due to a car accident when he was 12, hadn’t developed an IQ past that of an 8 year old.

After hearing this, and realizing the gravity of the situation, a friend and I agreed to take him out for the day. Still, we were unsure of what to do, him being intellectually disabled and only capable of speaking Korean and us with experience in neither special care nor Korean. It seemed like it might be a bit problematic but as it would turn out, there wouldn’t be much talking involved. That day we went out, played video games, ate and watched a movie. The latter choice might have been a bit much because the movie was in English and we could tell he couldn’t understand.

In fact, he seemed rather indifferent to the whole day, not appearing to enjoy himself. It even seemed that he might have been emotionally drained just by spending time with us. So when we brought him back to my house to meet with his mother, we were hoping he’d enjoyed himself but didn’t really have any reason to believe he had.

We were wrong! After a few days, I was told how he had been bragging to all of his friends and everyone else he came in contact with about his new American friends. He even hinted he was keen to have another day out. I was genuinely surprised, but I was more than fine with that, so we set up a date for the following weekend. He had fun, and so did we so, why not? However, on this occasion his cousin Tim came along, who was a 15-years-old that knew both English and Korean, which helped tremendously with the language gap.

But as far as experience, I would have rather just had my agent’s son and not his cousin Tim. Tim’s parents had to resort to bribing him to spend time with his special needs cousin, whom he referred to as a ‘retard’. As one might imagine, I was not terribly ecstatic about bringing someone along that didn’t want to be there, but I also thought he would be nice to have a translator.
Yet this young man didn’t translate at all! He spent the whole time playing on a game he brought along and ignoring his cousin every time he tried to be friendly. This didn’t leave a good taste in my mouth but still my agent’s son ended up having a blast and that’s all that mattered.

What this taught me is that people really don’t realize that it’s the little things that matter. Tim’s poor attitude could really have negatively affected him but the time my friend and I spent with him, paying attention and engaging him, despite our deficiency in Korean, tromped it. We didn’t think he would enjoy nor was enjoying himself but in actuality he had a blast, simply because it was an experience that belonged to him and us, alone.

Small things make real differences. This also works both ways and it needs to be noticed, a small thing that you might not think did anything could change everything, for better or for worse.

When one gives a man a label, they never really feel the need to get to know them. Don’t label people. It seems best to follow the mantra don’t judge a book by its cover and really by the first impression either. You could meet someone on a bad day or catch him or her off guard and find them to be something they are not due to a misunderstanding.

Just because someone may be challenged in some way does not mean you can’t be friends with them, or that you won’t really enjoy spending time with them. People judge people far too easily and don’t even do it consciously. It’s a subconscious thing that we should all be aware of. Just because someone is different does not mean they are worse for it.

We are all different. You’ve got to give people a chance, and you may find you some things in common. Open up and find out what is really inside a person’s heart, and you won’t only learn something about them, but also about yourself.

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