Friday, January 05, 2007

My Way

To be honest, at first it annoyed me. Sometimes my initial reaction is the wrong reaction. When I started at Vita this guy with a disability popped into my office first thing every morning and every afternoon before leaving. Not just my office, but every office. He made the rounds. He'd just open the door and come in. No knock, no pause, just open and enter. I'd glance up, feeling disturbed, from what I was doing, give him a tense smile and then go back to work. He'd nod and give a real smile and then leave.

After about two weeks, twenty drop-ins, it struck me. I was looking up from my paper work (that was about supporting people with disabilities) annoyed about a guy with a disability wanting just a little bit of time and attention. Ummmm. I was getting it backward. I decided that whenever he came into my office, I'd stop whatever I was doing, paperwork, phone call, even a meeting and actually say 'hello' to him. Find out his name. Ask a question or two. What the hell, I'm supposed to be here, working, because I care about people with disabilities. Maybe I should, umm, care.

So I did.

I learned his name was Kyle. I learned little else about him. Kyle doesn't talk very much, he can say a word or two, answer a question or two. But what he really wants is just to say "hello" and "goodbye". He wants to make contact with the people who work in the offices. The people who make the big decisions.

So, it got good. Kyle knew when he came into my office, that he'd have my full attention for the two or three minutes that he wanted it. That we'd chat briefly and I'd ask him a question or two, he'd answer a question or two. Then we'd be done. I noticed that he started smiling before he even came in the door. He knew, he'd learned, that I would stop for him. He liked it. Hell, I liked it.

But I blew it today.

Have you ever done something really really stupid.

For the best intentions. But stupid nonetheless.

When Kyle came into my office today he was unaccompanied. Usually a staff is trotting behind him to make sure that he came and went with minimum bother. So, I figured he had some time and as it happened, so did I. I invited him to sit down. To take a load off. To relax and chat.

He looked confused almost upset.

This was out of routine. It was outside the bounds of what he knew how to do. It wasn't what he expected. Getting more than he bargained for, more than he wanted, he turned and immediately began to leave.

Why did I do that? Take something that he liked and make it something different. Something harder. Something better. Something for ME.

Why couldn't I leave well enough alone.

He was happy doing it HIS way damn it - and I had to get in there and mess it all up.

I watched as he left my office. Deflated.

I waited till he was a few feet away and then called back to him.

He turned and I asked him to come into my office.

We did the ritual his way. A grin split his face.

Sorry, Kyle. From now on, it's your way.

And I should have known better.


Lily said...

What am I always telling my kids?

"It's okay to make a mistake as long as you learn something from it."

It's comforting to know I'm not the only one who does (make mistakes with people's feelings)... and even more comforting to know that there's a way to restore things. (It's called "humble yourself".)

Thanks Dave, I could identify with that. And I feel a little more a part of the human family going into this day...

Belinda said...

I never stop appreciating your humility, honesty and humanity--three wonderful qualities to bring into each day and every situation--even if they are borne inside a vessel that is human and occasionally blows it, that too, is very reassuring to the rest of us human beings!

lina said...

Way to go Kyle!
Hurray for all the Kyle's of the world for having the patience to teach me and all of us, everyday.