Stranger Refuses to Sit Beside Family Who Had Children With Disabilities – Later, a Waiter Brings Them a Note From Him

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When the Pinkerton family walks into a restaurant they get noticed.

Partly because, on any given day, there’s enough of them to field their own baseball team. But mostly because six of their ten children have special needs, including five with Down syndrome and one who is blind and developmentally delayed. He also has dwarfism.

The kids, ranging in age from 17 to 27, tend to garner a lot of attention, and unfortunately, not all of it is positive. Despite society’s push for inclusion, we still have a long way to go when it comes to embracing diversity.

Party of 12

Recently, the family was out for dinner at a restaurant when they came face-to-face with a fellow diner’s own preconceived bias.

Sadly, this isn’t new for Shannon. She’s used to strangers’ judgment.

Upon being seated next to the stranger, he made it clear that he didn’t want to sit beside the family, revealing an uncomfortable truth about societal attitudes towards people with disabilities.

He asked to be moved to a different table.

“We’ve had people move away from us at restaurants because they assume we’ll be loud— but my boys are very well-behaved,” Shannon told TODAY.

And that day, she proved it. In a lesson right out of the “Actions speak louder than words” playbook, her boys shattered the stranger’s limiting and hurtful beliefs and tore down his intolerance.

Towards the end of their dinner, the waiter approached the Pinkertons with a note from the stranger. The family opened the letter to find a heartfelt apology.

“I’m sorry for judging you.”

Stranger’s note per TODAY

Not only did the stranger express remorse but he also put his money where his mouth is, covering the entire cost of the Pinkerton’s meal.

The Path That Led Them Here

Shannon and Troy have four neurotypical biological children, ages 21 to 33. Twelve years ago, they adopted Joey, then 10-years-old. Joey has Down syndrome.

It was just the beginning. They went on to adopt five more foster kids — Tracee (27) who is also nonverbal and autistic, Anthony (24), Cameron (22), Julian (20), and Devlin (17). They were all in their teens at the time of adoption and came to Wyoming from all across the country.

It’s not a life that most people would choose but for Shannon, it’s a calling.

“The foster care system is broken — especially for kids with special needs. They get placed anywhere, with people who aren’t qualified,” Shannon told TODAY. “That’s one of the reasons we’re doing this.”

Despite the challenges their disabilities may pose, Shannon is determined that the “Pinkerton Boys” as they’re known on social media live a rich, full, normal life.

“The boys like to go out to eat. They like to go into town and go grocery shopping. We’re just a normal family,” she said.

The boys are also responsible for household chores, such as preparing meals and helping their dad with outdoor projects on their 40-acre property.  

And they share their normal adventures with their impressive 1.2 million followers on TikTok.

Breaking Down Stigmas and Redefining Assumptions

Along with their parents, the boys are dispelling stereotypes that people have about children with Down syndrome and other disabilities. Sometimes one troll at a time.

“We’ve had people come on and be rude and make comments, and then I’ll comment back, ‘Well, that’s not very nice,’” said Shannon.

“I private messaged one guy and said, ‘You know, your comment was kind of rude. But by the way, my kids wanted to tell you that you have great tattoos.’ And then the guy comes back and apologizes, and the next thing I know we’re TikTok friends.”

Here’s to the power of personal connection and experience.

By adopting six kids with special needs, not only did Shannon and Troy change their lives, but they also became unwitting ambassadors for a cause much larger than themselves.

And it’s stories like this one that encourage us all to look beyond our biases, to see the humanity in others, and to celebrate the beauty that exists in our differences.

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