Sunday, June 20, 2010

How do you judge a situation?

Often times, it's easy to judge a situation simply at face value, without knowing all the details. Some things are deemed to be "just wrong". One of these situations could be said to be the regular fraternization between someone in their early- to mid-twenties and a late 30's, early 40-year old. Or worse, an early to mid-30 year old hanging out with 15 - 20 year olds.

But before you begin to rant about how wrong it is, and demand, "what could he/she see in them," consider this. Although someone may appear "normal", they could be suffering from delayed development. My older brother, Joe, (name changed for privacy's sake), is one such person.

Many people are familiar with the terms hypo- and hyper-thyroid. Hypo means that the thyroid is producing less hormones, at a slower rate. Hyper means the opposite, and the thyroid produces too much hormones. Tragically, my brother was nearly 4 before doctors diagnosed that his thyroid wasn't working at all!

The University of Maryland Medical Centre's website states, "Infants born with permanent congenital (inborn) hypothyroidism need to receive treatment as soon as possible after birth to prevent mental retardation, stunted growth, and other aspects of abnormal development (a syndrome referred to as cretinism). Untreated infants can lose up to three to five IQ points per month during the first year. An early start of lifelong treatment avoids or minimizes this damage." Click here to read more.

Although my brother has been on medical treatment since he was diagnosed, he does not mentally mature at the same rate as most other folks. He does physically mature normally though. This wasn't really a problem, when we were younger. But as we celebrated birthdays, and moved from elementary into high school, Joe began to have problems associating with kids his own age. When he hit his 20's, he was just beginning to relate to the grade 8 level and felt most socially comfortable with 13 - 15 year olds. Of course parents were concerned, so were ours and later, me. 

By the time Joe was 30 years old, people began to express disapproval about his attendance at the church youth group and fraternization with a by-now much younger age group. He had begun to relate to people in their late teens, but had crossed that invisible generation-gap line. Teenagers no longer saw him as the cool 20's something that found them interesting, now he was just an 'old' 30-something and kind of creepy.

Once again ostracized by the age group he most related to, the heavy drinking that had started in his 20's worsened and it wasn't long before the drugs showed up. Over the next decade, Joe spiralled slowly down, picking up speed in his late 30's until finally crashing into the reality he was a cocaine addict. 

It's only been a year since he hit bottom, and while he's fought to overcome the drug's pull, Joe has yet to admit that alcohol is another problem that is preventing him from successfully beating his addiction. He's desperately lonely, but recognizes that he's not likely to attract a romantic relationship. Joe would be happy just finding a group of friends he can hang out with and feel accepted. 

Fortunately, Joe has rediscovered his relationship with God and, through regular attendance at a church has found a group of people who have reached out to him. I believe as he continues to age and inevitably mature, he will eventually find the acceptance he has been so far denied . The gap of maturity shall lessen again and I pray that he will better relate to a closer age group.

So, as I began this post, I encourage everyone not to jump to conclusions about a situation of an older individual hanging out with younger age groups. Unless you know the individual, you shouldn't judge. That is not to say you shouldn't be cautious about investigating such a person if one suddenly begins to hang out with your younger sibling/child/friend, etc. But just don't judge a book by it's cover without at least reading the inside flap.

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