i wonder what her name is


{image is a screenshot of HuffPost’s Good News header}

I saw a story on HuffPost yesterday. One of those feel good pieces in the Good News section. Yeah, that’s a thing. Cause let’s be honest, there isn’t much good news in “the news.” So I get it, and I appreciate the concept.

The story was entitled, Qdoba Worker Feeds Customer With Disability, Reminds Us All To ‘Help Someone Today.

Underneath a news video packaged around the recording of said worker feeding said customer is the following text:

Faith in humanity, restored.

A worker in a Qdoba fast food restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky was caught on video feeding a customer who was unable to feed herself.

Ridge Quarles told WAVE 3, the local NBC station, that the customer was a regular who traveled to the restaurant via a bus used by people with disabilities.

He told the station:

I had helped her through [the] line and sat her out in the lobby, got her a drink, got her utensils and napkin and kind of started to walk off and I was like, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” and she turned around and she was like, “Sir, if you don’t mind could you help me eat?”
The footage was captured several weeks ago by customer David Jones, who had helped the woman to enter the store.

“He didn’t stop to think about, ‘Well, should I help her, should I not,’ he just went over, put the gloves on and started feeding her,” Jones told WAVE 3.

Jones said he filmed the moment to show his friends “there’s still some good people in the world.”

I think it’s nice that this young man went the extra mile for a customer who was, thankfully, able to ask for the help that she needed. I’m not sure that the fact that he didn’t refuse her request is enough to restore my faith in humanity, as it did for the author of the article, but it’s certainly, well, nice. I’d imagine that the woman whom he helped thought it was nice too. But imagining is all that I can do, because, as far as I can tell, no one asked her.

I wonder what her name is.

I wonder how she feels about being videotaped while eating – while needing to be fed. I wonder how she feels about that video being shared online and subsequently put on television without her consent. I wonder if anyone, anywhere along the line, thought that perhaps they should consult her.

She’s a regular at the restaurant. According to the reporter, she patronizes the place enough that they know how she gets there, what she orders for lunch, what she prefers for dinner. Enough that the young man was able to imitate precisely what she said each time she came in.

But in the video, the reporter says, “we don’t know her name or her story.”

It wouldn’t have been hard to find her.

If they’d thought it was important.

But clearly, their story isn’t about her.

Even though it’s her story.

Once it was packaged for public consumption – for people who aren’t disabled, for those who will view it as an act of kindness to be passed on – it was no longer about her.

I think so often of that incredible Ted Talk that Stella Young left us with before she passed away. The one in which she said, “And these images, there are lots of them out there, they are what we call inspiration porn.” And the audience laughed because, well, porn is a funny word, I guess. And she said,

I use the term porn deliberately, because they objectify one group of people for the benefit of another group of people. So in this case, we’re objectifying disabled people for the benefit of nondisabled people. The purpose of these images is to inspire you, to motivate you, so that we can look at them and think, “Well, however bad my life is, it could be worse. I could be that person.”

But what if you are that person?”

What if you ARE that person?

I wonder what her name is.

I wonder how she feels about being on TV.

I wish someone had thought to ask.


11 thoughts on “i wonder what her name is

  1. Yes Jess. You hit the nail on the head. Everyone is being encouraged to remember their own humanity because “this [terrible thing] could be you someday.” Neglecting to see the humanity in others…

  2. Unfortunately us people with disabilities are often looked through, over, and around. I hate it but its part of our life and all we can do is try to get it changed but I don’t think it will change in my lifetime

  3. I agree with you, Jess! As kind as it is, it isn’t about the woman. No one asked the woman. It is so very wrong.

    Love you,

  4. Pingback: » i wonder what her name is

  5. This story made me think the same thing you wrote. So did the other viral story about the quarterback who asked his “down syndrome” friend to the prom- because apparently she is nothing more that a diagnosis. As if that young lady was asked only for that reason. As if she, or this Qudoba customer were nothing more than their differences. So aggravating.

  6. I think the question for me is this….if the man who took the video had asked her if he could share the video and she said, yes…..or if The Good News had contacted the woman for comment and she had given her name and given permission to use her name….would we still be objectifying her? We see images of women being objectied every day in videos, magazines, and in movies and television. Many of these women giving their consent.Even with consent I see these images as objectifying these women. Again, for me the question is the person with a disability still being objectified if they give permision for their video to be shared and their story told from another person’s voice. I don’t know the answer I just pose the question.

  7. Jess you bring up very valid points. I think the real question is the motivation of the service. Do we serve others so that people around us will notice our good works and in turn reward us for it? Or are we compassionate people with loving hearts who want to know the people around us in order that we might share that love, upholding each person’s honor and dignity, no matter their circumstance, race, economic status or disability?
    I really enjoy your blog. I read it almost every day. Your stories, insights and words of wisdom make me smile, cringe, think and rethink. Thank you for sharing your gifts.

  8. I had never thought of it that way, don’t pay attention to many of the feel good stories, but this is something to remember.

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