You Don’t See Me – A Letter to My Neighbor

Fictional letter written from the perspective of a girl with mental and physical disabilities.

Author’s Note: I work with people who have disabilities. Life for people born with disabilities or those who suffer brain injuries at some stage in their lives is challenging in so many ways. When we take our clients into the community, it is often difficult to know what to expect. Some people look away as if they’re embarrassed. Others look frightened. Some good people attempt to interact with our clients, bless their hearts. More and more often, people with intellectual disabilities are being placed in apartments or small group homes in the community. It is not easy for them, because they often don’t understand why nobody wants to talk to them. I just lost one of my clients unexpectedly last week. He smiled and laughed all the time. I don’t think a photo existed of him where he wasn’t smiling. He brightened all of our lives. It’s in his memory, I share this ‘letter.’

Dear Friend,

I am your neighbor. We don’t know each other because every time I see you in the street, you look away with your head down. I don’t know why.

Are you shy?

You never see my smile. I think we could be friends if you saw my smile. You would know I am just like you.

Why are you shaking your head? You don’t think I’m just like you, do you? Well, I am. Really!

I live in a house and I have friends. I have a mom and a dad who love me. I don’t live with them because I’m an adult. You don’t live with your mom and dad, either.

See what I mean?

I won’t say I told you so. That would be rude. Sometimes I do say the wrong thing, but I’m learning. Has that ever happened to you?

I have a special friend. We see each other when we can, but we both have jobs so it can be hard to find time to spend together. We have such busy schedules. My friends and I go bowling, go to dances and have cookouts in summer. I love to cook. Some nights, we play cards, and when we get going, it’s a hoot. We go to movies, out to eat, visit museums, go to ball games, and the list goes on. I love the holidays.

Do you?

I love spending time with my family.

My friend, Tom, doesn’t get to see his family. I think they live too far away. When he’s sad, I give him a hug. I’m nice like that. I have faults, just like everyone else. Sometimes I have to be reminded not everyone likes hugs. Hard to believe, because hugs make you feel better, but it’s true.

The other day, I was standing in the sunshine looking at my garden. I love to garden. You do too. I’m observant. I’ve seen you out in your garden, and if I got the chance to talk to you, I would tell you I love your flowers, especially those purple ones. Purple is my favorite color.

Is it your favorite color?

 I think it might be yours, too, because you planted a lot of purple flowers. That’s how I know we have something in common. 

Today, I was filling my bird-feeder in the front yard when you came out of your house. I waved, but you didn’t see me. Two people walked by, and you smiled and nodded. Then, a person walked down our street right past me and waved to you. You called out, “Hello!” You sounded so happy. You greeted your friend with a hug, and I have to say, you look lovely when you smile.

I know you must be a nice person. I am a nice person too. Maybe tomorrow, you will look up and see my smile. I just know we could be friends, but you never see me. I don’t know why. Maybe if I bring you some flowers…

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