I finally watched The Peanut Butter Falcon yesterday.
If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a movie that features a young man with Down syndrome pursuing his dream of going to a wrestling school run by his favorite wrestler. And by pursuing, I mean running away from the retirement home he was confined to.
Since it came out last summer, I had heard good things about the movie and how it promotes inclusion of people with Down syndrome.
(In the educational world, inclusion is one of the current buzzwords. I really like this definition of inclusive mindset: “A non-judgmental belief that all individual experiences are valuable and are met with empathy, compassion and emotional intelligence.”) (https://images.app.goo.gl/5ypPJ96WrXCLWqcT8)
The thing that I absolutely loved about the movie was how Zak, the person with Down syndrome, was treated by Tyler, his travel companion.
It was not what I expected.
I figured it would be one of those stories in which the typically-developing person went through a personal transformation and changed his perception of people with Down syndrome by the end of the movie.
To my surprise, Tyler had an inclusive mindset.
He treated Zak like a normal person from the get-go.
Yes, he saw that Zak had Down syndrome. He also saw that he was alone. He literally had nothing other than his underwear and a goal.
Tyler could empathize with that. He didn’t have anyone or much of anything, either.
He showed Zak compassion rather than pity or disdain.
He showed emotional intelligence in that he developed a relationship with Zak for the person he is. He acknowledged Zak’s Down syndrome but it wasn’t what he focused on.
One of my favorite lines in the movie was early on when Tyler told him,
“I ain’t doing no charity shit, it’s just on my way.”(The Peanut Butter Falcon)
People with Down syndrome are not charity cases. They are not tickets to viral internet videos and 5-minutes of fame. They are not a means to help yourself feel good by befriending them. They are not accessories to invite to parties to boost your reputation as being “inclusive”.
The relationship that developed between Zak and Tyler is what I pray for Moses to have in his life.
That he has friends who want to hang out with him and include him because he’s an awesome, fun kid. Not because he has Down syndrome and they’re supposed to be nice to kids with disabilities.
That he has friends who talk to him like a person. That they don’t dumb things down and insult his intelligence. That they don’t take advantage of the times when he doesn’t understand fully what they’re saying and mock him.
I pray that he has relationships with people who love and care about him for who he is wholly. Not only because he has Down syndrome.
I know it was a movie, but the relationship that Zak and Tyler had is what I want for Moses in real life.
I pray that he finds his own “…friends and buddies…bro dogs…” (The Peanut Butter Falcon)
The Peanut Butter Falcon. Directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz. 2019. Film.