Looking for the good in the world and ignoring the stares and whispers

Acknowledging the goodness of humanity helps balance out the negativity

Jamie Askari avatar

by Jamie Askari |

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It was a beautiful summer night in northeastern Ohio; the sun was setting, and a warm evening breeze drifted in from Lake Erie. We had spent the last few hours watching our son, Jake, play baseball. As parents, our favorite activity was watching our kids enjoying their respective hobbies.

As we carried our foldable chairs toward the car, one of Jake’s neighborhood friends walked next to my husband, Arman, who was diagnosed in 2009 with early-onset Parkinson’s disease at the age of 38. He started kicking his leg into the air as he walked, just like Arman. The kids were around 7 years old at the time.

“Why are you walking that way?” I asked.

“I’m walking like a soldier, just like Arman!” he replied.

This was such a refreshing and innocent comment, and it was probably the first time Arman didn’t feel self-conscious or uncomfortable with his leg kick. He had a small fan club in our neighbor!

Before Arman had deep brain stimulation surgery, his left leg would kick high into the air as he walked. When seated, that same leg would move around uncontrollably. His body was in constant motion due to the side effects of his medications. When he was in an “off” state and his medications were wearing off, his legs tended to calm down and give him a break from the exhausting and uncontrollable movements. Arman lost a significant amount of weight, and it was like he was constantly exercising during his waking hours.

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Teaching kindness

When your body is out of your control and you don’t look “normal,” it generates a lot of unwanted stares and whispers from strangers. They aren’t doing this to make us feel bad or uncomfortable; they are genuinely unaware and uneducated about why it is happening. People often assume Arman is drunk or on drugs because they don’t understand Parkinson’s disease and its effects.

Over the years, we grew accustomed to the stares and whispers and almost began to expect it. It was definitely harder on our kids than it was on us. They felt overprotective of their dad, and it was devastating to them when strangers were unkind. But, always looking on the bright side, we used each unpleasant situation as a teachable parenting moment, encouraged them to see all humankind through the same lens, and reminded them to always be the first to offer a helping hand to anyone in need. As a result, our three children have grown into extraordinarily empathic and genuinely kind adults.

But there was also something we didn’t expect: We started to notice that there were often kind strangers eager to help us. Many people offer to hold the door or lend a helping hand. They notice that we may be struggling and go out of their way to be kind. It has been refreshing to see how kind our world can be.

We have consciously decided to focus on the kindness we have experienced instead of our unpleasant encounters. Instead of worrying about the stares and the whispers, it is best for us to look to the good in the world. Any act of kindness, big or small, is enough to compensate for any negativity we have experienced.

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Richard S Boynton avatar

Richard S Boynton

My wife and I both have Parkinson's. She has the Lewy Body version and I have early stage regular Parkinson's. My wife has hand tremors and my feet are constantly vibrating. My wife keeps her hands under the table so people don't stare at her, but we are very open with our friends about our condition and they are extremely nice to us. A little kid asked his mother why I walk like a penguin. The mother was embarrassed but I was OK about it and explained the reason to this kid. The next thing I knew, he was walking like I did, so I had made a new friend.

Jamie Askari avatar

Jamie Askari

That is adorable that he did your "penguin walk"! I love that you were able to explain why you walk that way; great learning for that young child. It is wonderful that you have a support system with your friends; having great friends in your corner is so important. Thank you for reading!


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