Sunday, November 10, 2019

A Challenge

Kindness.

This month's issue of 'The International Journal for Direct Support Professionals' is one that I wrote on what it means to be, or do, kindness. It was published this month because on Nov. 13 we celebrate World Kindness Day. In the article, I challenge people to spend an entire day being kind in all situations, with everyone.

I am taking the challenge myself, knowing that I'm going to fail, sometimes, get it wrong other times, but I'm going to try. Kindness is an action not an attribute so that means that this will be a day that will exhaust me.

So I challenge you to take the challenge and then come back here and tell me all about it!

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Moving Forward

It was the morning after the first snowfall of the year. Much more fell that we expected and, as we were up early getting ready for me to go to work, the plows had not yet been through. We took a second to turn on the television to get the Toronto, where my office is, weather report. We found the station and then listened as a poor reporter stood out in the freezing cold talking about the snow and ice.

The reporter was down somewhere near Union station and you could see pedestrians quickly scooting by. Then a man entered the screen to her right and walked off screen to her left. He never looked at her, or the camera, he was solely focused on moving forward.

He had Down Syndrome.

He was alone.

He was going somewhere.

I've always thought that disabled people by the very nature of disability, ableism and disphobia live our lives as an act of open revolt. The very fact that we are shopping, and going to movies, and going to work, and going about our business instead of plummeting from bridges and over-passes gives the lie to the idea that disability is a life unworth living.

So there he was.

Walking across the screen like an advertisement for 'Not Dead Yet' he simply was.

When I write things like this, people often comment that his triumph is really our own, as parents and teachers and support workers. We so want the taste of victory to be our own. But no one can understand what it is to be him there, except, of course, him there. No one can know the stares he faces, the names he's called, the spaces closed to him.

We do what we do.

But it's his walk.

And he made it, in the very early morning of the first day of ice and snow.

He will arrive at his destination with freedom in his wake.

Monday, October 14, 2019

What The Dog Wants

Photo Description: Close up photo of a gentle faced doberman /German shepherd mix
Right now, as I'm writing this, Lucy is sitting beside me. It's taking a long time to type these words. You see right now, Lucy has decided that her need for affection and affirmation is the only thing I should be attending to ...

excuse me ...

be right back ...

OK Lucy is now full up on hugs and love.

I admire this about her. If she could get up and debate with behaviour therapists, she would want to make the case that love isn't contingent ... if it is it's toxic.

I have always maintained this, I wrote 'the 10 Commandments of Reinforcement' a long while back wherein I stated that rewards could be contingent but that love should never be. Lucy here is a follower of that philosophy.

Lucy has no difficulty in seeking out affection when it's needed. She has no problem in communicating exactly what it is she wants from us in that department. "Scratch behind my ears" is different from "stroke the underside of my throat."

I wish I had the skill of asking for affection when I needed it.

I wish that I didn't feel embarassed at how much I need it.

But there you have it, Lucy the pooch, believes she deserves it any time she wants it. Maybe that's why she seems so much, so very much, more at peace with herself.

Damn dog.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Today We Vote

Photo Description: Three maple leaves one brown, one yellow and one red are placed over the words "Happy Thanksgiving. Credit: This work was found on the internet here: https://dayslee.ca/2017/10/07/happy-thanksgiving-day-canada/

Today we vote.

The advance polls open just a little after breakfast time. Joe and I are away, in Edmonton, on the day of the election so we've planned to get in the car and drive over to the center and mark our ballot.

Those who know us, and even many who don't, know how we are voting. We have one of those lawn signs in front of our place, and in a mammoth tribute to our neighbour's practice of diversity (for isn't diversity something that is done?), there isn't a single mark on it.

But that doesn't matter here. What matters is that, on Thanksgiving Sunday, we are given the privilege of voting. Of participating in the responsibilities of citizenship. Of raising our voice in regards to the direction we want to see our nation take.

I remember our neighbour Tess. An American citizen who lived most of her life in Canada. Near-death, she decided to become a Canadian. Shortly after she went through a process, sped up because of the circumstances of her health, and became Canadian, a Federal Election was called. On voting day she was carried out of her apartment on a stretcher. The poll was in the lobby of our apartment building and she made them stop so she could get a ballot and vote. All while laying on the stretcher.

She wanted to become a Canadian to honour the life that she had lived in this country, she wanted to vote because she wanted to be counted, at least one more time, before she died.

I remember speaking to my father, him too in a hospital bed, about the war years and listen to him, for the first time, tell stories of the war. My father was not a man to ever show pride in accomplishments, but pride did slip into his voice as he spoke of being one small man in one great big war. He had served his country and that mattered to him. He was quietly proud of his grandson, my nephew, who also serves.

He and my nephew served and serve this country, keeping us safe and free.

And all that's asked of me is that I vote.

And I will, in a few hours, in Thanksgiving for the freedom on this day of giving thanks.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Ready

The last item was scanned and the clerk turned to me and asked, "All ready for Thanksgiving now?" I looked over the bounty packed in bags; turnips, carrots, potatoes, acorn squash, the Tofurkey roasts, and was about to say that we needed not a thing more, we were ready, when I noticed the store had created some prepackaged bags that could be donated to the food bank.

I grabbed one and passed it to her and when she scanned it, I said, "Now I am."

Joe took the bag to run it up to the drop off while the last small items were packed.

Behind us was a couple, probably in their late 20's. He wore those kind of glasses that made his eyes look a little bit bigger than they were. He and those eyes were staring at me. And he was crying.

He turned to the woman he was with and said, "To see such generosity from someone given so little."

The obvious inappropriateness of his remark was such that even the cashier blushed. Joe arrived back from dropping the food off and we were ready to go.

I didn't say anything.

Because I've been given much, and much beyond a life lived with purpose, a life lived with love, and a life lived with adventure, I've also been given an extra dollop of restraint to use, at will, when I needed it.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate the occasion. 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Misters Buttigieg

Image result for buttigieg pete and chasten

I hear a lot of straight people congratulating themselves on the presidential run of Pete Buttigieg. Even here in Canada people who speak of the American election often borrow from what they hear on American television, "It's a sign of how far we've come."

We?

We?

Who is 'we'?

Joe and I have been following Mr. Buttigieg's campaign fairly closely and therefore I can assure you, 'we' haven't come that far at all. Just take a moment to read comments on news about the 'gay candidate'. It doesn't matter Fox news or CNN and you will find vitriol. Absolute violent vitriol. Mayor Pete's last name starts with the letters 'Butt' so you can imagine the kind of hateful, homophobic remarks stem from that little coincidence.

Mr. Buttigieg is where he is because he fought to be there. He's pulling America forward. He's making it thinkable that gay people can achieve high office. It's down to him. I get up every morning and go on line to check to see if he's been assassinated, that's how deep and terrifying the comment columns are. The fact that Both of the Misters Buttigieg are up to this challenge and rise to every day possibly being the last, and this shouldn't be minimized by talking about 'how far we've come' as if 'we've arrived.'

No matter what happens, these two men have changed history and changed how gay people see themselves. But, I want him to win. I think he's a deep and thoughtful man. I believe he would be an awesome president.

Homophobia, however, can look like reasoned debate.

"He is so light on policy." Um, it is possible to be gay and to be profoundly ready, we 'light loafered' people aren't all ditzy with glamour, Buttigieg's policies and proposals are easy to find and are well thought out solutions to the problems faced by his country.

"He can't make his voice heard." After debates, where he has put in strong performances, often the wrap up news won't mention him at all. They will focus on other candidates as if he weren't there. It's as if a distinguished and erudite gay man isn't worth mentioning. But his voice is being heard, visit Team Pete in any of its iterations and you'll find people listening, and amplifying his words. And anyone really paying attention should notice that some of his early rhetoric has made it into the mouths of other candidates who by claiming it as their own when they speak, lie.

The likelihood that this will be read by either of the Misters Buttigieg is very, very, small, but if they do, I want them to know that to a elderly, disabled man in Canada and his husband of 50 years, you are changing more than America, you are showing what gay courage means every day you rise to fight your battles.

And we thank you for it.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

What I Did At Work

I am a believer in fiction. In the power of stories, true or not, to change our lives or change our perspectives.. I have a friend who only reads non-fiction and believes that non-fiction books are 'education' and what I read is 'entertainment.' But we've dropped the subject between us because neither was budging.

Books, movies, comedians all use the power of stories to open different pathways in your mind. When Joe and I went to see "The Peanut Butter Falcon" an entirely fictional story, I wasn't expecting to laugh, to cry and to learn so much. The movie which stars an actor with Down Syndrome grabbed me right at the start and in telling the story brought me face to face with vestiges of ableism that I had tucked away, hopefully out of sight.

Arriving at work the next day I began the process of turning this movie into a training opportunity. In the end we had nearly 30 staff come to an early afternoon viewing of the movie and then we all trooped back to the office for a discussion about what we'd seen, felt and learned while watching the movie.

The movie touches a lot of emotional chords and it was easy to see that people were deeply affected by what they'd seen. We heard a lot of voices and a lot of perspectives and soon we were learning from each other as well as learning from the movie.

It was awesome.

On top of that, we are an organization that serves people with disabilities, we near filled an empty theatre to see a new kind of disability story, supporting this kind of movie in any kind of way is certainly part of our mission vision and values.

I had a good day at work.