Let me tell you about a guy named Joshua, who I met riding the bus to work. He made a distinct impression in my mind, because Joshua said “I’m sorry” a lot. That was the first thing that really made me notice him—his continual need to apologize. In saying “sorry” all the time, it was as if Joshua thought he was a burden.
From what I understand about his past, Joshua just barely a teenager when he suffered trauma in a car accident that left him mentally impaired. Can you imagine the frustration--how all his relationships immediately changed as a result of his diminished capacity to communicate?
Like a lot of folks, I really can't imagine his fate--the emotional turmoil that came from the source of that tragic event. And yet, his life did not end there.
All these years later, Joshua has a job scanning important documents into databases. He verifies that the written documents are consistent with the digital documents they were copied from. He works with other disabled persons, some who have behavioral disorders. From what he tells me, some of his co-workers who have behavior disorders tease him while he’s doing his job.
Joshua is rational. He understands things. His brain is damaged in a way where he has difficulty with motor functions. So for instance, he walks satisfactory, but his pace tends to be measured and slow. As well, he talks slow, and sometimes he stutters. For Joshua, the world around him is out of synch. It moves too fast.
Joshua has an iPod, so I gave him some music. He was thrilled with the 4.7GB DVD of music I made for him. I could see the joy written all over his face. And from that moment on, well, let’s just say it was official--we were definitely friends.
As he began to open up more about who he was and where he’d been, I told Joshua that he didn't have to be sorry anymore--that he wasn't a burden to this world. From his reaction, I don't think anyone had ever told him that before, but I think he really believed me when I said it.
I've known him for about two years now, and I don’t hear him say “I’m sorry” anymore. In fact, I haven't heard him apologize for being himself in at least a year.
So what’s the moral of this story? I suppose each reader will decide that. However, let me just say this: Joshua is a citizen. He’s a productive member of society. He pays taxes, and he’s not a criminal. Joshua is a brother, a son, and a friend. But most importantly, Joshua IS Joshua. He is his own person, with a unique identity, and he no longer has to apologize or feel sorry, because he has come to realize he’s accepted, valued and loved.