There’s an emphasis in the special needs community (and beyond) to use what’s called “people-first” language. It’s an important nuance in conversation that puts the person before the disability: i.e. instead of referring to someone as a “Down’s child,” you would refer to them as a “child with Down syndrome.” They are, of course, a child first.
I thought about this recently in how this idea not just applies to language, but to mindset. How we tend to label, perceive, and observe everyone around us—even with the best of intentions.
It is hard to always see people as human first, when their behavior or dress or lifestyle or whatever-else is somehow distracting to us. And then we criticize. Or judge. Or write-off.
One of my favorite quotes is often attributed to Mother Teresa: “If you judge someone, you have no time to love them.” It’s something I repeat to myself often.
I’ve found when I can apply not just people-first language, but a people-first mentality to everyone I meet, I am much more open, selfless and kind. I am less skeptical and more compassionate. Less fearful and more connective. Less judgmental, more loving.
We’re all humans first—a condition that makes each of us worthy of life, love, compassion, connection. And on this level, we are all so very much the same, wishing others would see us for who we are, first.