A Lack of Understanding Creates an Opportunity for Positive Change

The day this columnist's daughter learned the importance of practicing kindness

Jamie Askari avatar

by Jamie Askari |

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Our family loves musical theater. My husband, Arman, and I used to go to the theater often before we had children, and we were thrilled when our kids also took an interest.

Our daughters, Lexy and Mandy, were involved in local community theater productions from a young age. As a little boy, our son, Jake, loved to attend his sisters’ performances, cheering them on from the front row.

We enjoyed many family outings to the theater district in Cleveland. It was a special treat when we headed downtown to see the traveling Broadway shows. We loved the music, costumes, and architectural details of our restored theaters. My parents also supported our kids’ passion for musical theater by taking them to see productions locally and in New York City.

Arman and Mandy shared a special bond over their favorite Broadway show, “Les Misérables.” They would listen to the music in the car and sing along to the beautiful songs together. They were thrilled to find out the show was finally traveling to Cleveland!

They headed to the theater early to have lunch before the matinee. Arman, who was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease in 2009, was still driving at that time, and it was very special for them to have some alone time together. After lunch, they held hands as they walked to the theater, beaming with excitement. To their surprise, I had splurged on great seats. It was quite possibly a perfect day.

This was before Arman had his deep brain stimulation surgery and his dyskinesia was at its worst. Being mindful of this, I purchased seats next to the aisle so he could avoid kicking the seat in front of him. I thought he could extend his legs into the aisle to avoid disturbing anyone. Boy, was I wrong.

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An older woman was seated in front of Arman and Mandy. As the show was about to begin, the kicking started up in full force. Arman tried explaining to the woman in front of them about his Parkinson’s disease (PD) and how sorry he was for the inconvenience of his uncontrollable leg.

However, the woman began making a scene and yelling at my husband and daughter. She shouted at him to stop kicking immediately and called the ushers over to assist her. Arman responded kindly that he would love to stop, and he asked if she had a cure for PD that could help him do so. She did not have a cure and soon quieted down.

Kindness makes a difference

While the performance was wonderful, the mood was not. Mandy was inconsolable as she cried herself to sleep that evening. She couldn’t understand how an adult could be so cruel or why this had happened to her sweet dad on their special day. Lots of questions ran through her young mind, and I didn’t have any answers for her.

But what I did have were wisdom and advice. I explained to Mandy that not everyone will be kind, and all we can do is offer them kindness. We’ll encounter people who aren’t educated on diseases such as PD, so we’ll have to educate them. Many view people with differences unkindly, so we must lead by example and show them how we treat everyone with the same respect and kindness. We needed to look at this challenge as an opportunity; we have a chance to make the changes we want to see in the world, one person at a time.

This changed Mandy, and she has never forgotten that experience. When I asked her about her first memories of PD, she immediately thought about that day. It’s unfortunate that the bad memories sometimes outshine the good ones. She said it was probably the most challenging day in her young life to see her dad ridiculed and embarrassed for something he had no control over.

During her teen years, Mandy was passionate about working with individuals with special needs in the theater. Somehow I feel that the experience at “Les Misérables” led her to this passion. This was a gift to herself as well as others.

That angry lady at the theater likely had no idea how much of an impact she had on Mandy. At a young age, she learned much about the type of person she wanted to become and who she didn’t want to be. Now 23, Mandy is a compassionate woman pursuing a career in the healthcare field, continuing her dedication to helping others.

Luckily, there’s now a fantastic movie adaptation of “Les Misérables” that Mandy and Arman can watch at home, no angry lady included!

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.


Phil Gattis avatar

Phil Gattis

Kudos for your patience, love, and forgiveness. Also for your parenting skills.

My caregiver wife & I [PWP] and our children all love Les Miz.


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