Pictures are said to be worth a thousand words. They can be words of love, encouragement, outrage, desire, hopelessness, peace or any number of emotions.
I linked the image from BuzzFeed pictured from the original article from The Huffington Post. Take a minute to go to the article if you haven’t seen it already before reading on. Don’t read the comments from the readers on the link.
I was livid.
It’s bad enough I’ve been noticing a lot of callous jokes on TV about food allergies and intolerances. Dismissing gluten-free diets as just the latest diet craze for people to lose weight. Joking about making sure someone’s food had food offenders in it. This is the kind of thing that will perpetuate stereotypes.
This is not a joke. Food allergies and intolerances are serious health issues. And excluding people solely on the basis of something they have NO control over is just wrong. We want to be included. We can’t help that our body makes us sick if ingest (or sometimes just touch) the offender. If we had a choice, none of us would have food allergies or intolerances. If you don’t know what to do to include us in your meal, ask us if we haven’t already offered. Even if it means asking us to bring our own food. We all do it. I’m used to bringing something along with me just in case.
I mean this for other groups that get shunned because of something they have no control over, too. Other medical conditions, developmental disorders, mental status. While doing social work, I had to explain to 8 teenage boys why their soon-to-be neighbors were stalling their move into their new group home. The amount of excuses I heard from the neighbors against the move was ridiculous and based on fear of what they thought could happen because mental illness and severe emotional disabilities are still so misunderstood. As one of the kids said, “They’re stupid!” I had to agree wholeheartedly. These were kids who had gone through treatment, but really needed to live in the community in order to integrate back in successfully. They were good kids who had shitty things happen to them and they in turn made some not so good choices. In fact, once we were able to get them moved in. Most of our battles were typical teenage battles. You couldn’t have picked these boys out from the crowd. We had them working jobs at local businesses and restaurants, playing school sports and getting into other “normal” teenage activities. They even went on dates. They weren’t happy about people trying to exclude them from the neighborhood, but they showed the neighbors how wrong they were.
Now, just imagine if that graphic had been used for something other than a joke. What if it was used to educate people on how multiple food allergies/intolerances tend to happen, how difficult it is to manage them, and how diet (what you eat) choice plays a role in helping you manage the allergies/intolerances?
I’ve been fortunate that most people ask me questions about my food issues because they want to be educated. I had the opportunity to educate people at my cousin’s wedding just a few weeks ago when I pulled out some snacks for some extra protein because I couldn’t get enough with my dinner due to gluten being in most of the meat dishes and cheese not being an option for a protein source. I’ve never had anyone overtly exclude me because of my food allergies/intolerances. Even before I knew about my issues, I always tried to include my friends with the same issues and make sure they had enough options for a balanced meal. Always.
If you are reading this and you don’t have food allergies/intolerances, but know someone who does, and you don’t know much about it. Ask. It’s that easy.