Yesterday I saw something.
After work Joe picked me up and we went grocery shopping to pick up stuff to make Vegetarian Sloppy Joes. I welcomed the opportunity to get out and move around a bit after being in a confined space all day for meetings. We decided to take a drive to one of the bigger grocery stores rather than to just go to our local spot.
On the way to the store I saw something.
A guy, about twenty five, who works at the grocery store pushing buggies and packing bags was walking home. I first noticed this guy the first day we moved to the area five years ago. He's one of the reason's we'll go out of our way to shop at the store. If they hire people with disabilities, they get my business. I became used to seeing him there as part of the store. I've never seen him anywhere else. I remember being a kid and thinking that the post office guy lived there because I never saw him anywhere else. So somehow in my mind, this guy existed at the store, but nowhere else in the world. In some areas of my life I grow but I don't learn.
So here he was walking home, obviously after work. He was holding his work apron bundled up in one hand. He was just chatting with one of the tellers from the store. I don't know what they were talking about but it had that aura that people get around them when they are gossiping about others at work.
We were parked at a light and they were on the corner. Again, I do it. I assume. The co-worker is either a friend or a family member. The guy with a disability is being walked home after work. Great to see them out in the community. Great to see him doing so well. Then the pedestrian light changed and the kid (under 40 is kid) said goodbye to the woman he'd been walking with and turned and walked in front of our car. He glanced over and recognized us as customers and waved. We waved back.
She turned and walked the other way. She hadn't been walking him home. They'd been walking together. Chatting. Being sociable. That's all.
When I first started in this field and was looking for work. There were precious few jobs in the community. I started work in an institution because the only people who might have imagined a future of community living and integration would have been Nostrodamus or Agnes Nutter, witch. It was beyond comprehension that people with disabilities could live in a world 'out there' instead of safely 'in here.' I believed that we were protecting from rather than stopping from.
The miracle of our movement is that we believed in people with disability. The reality is they didn't need our belief as much as they needed opportunity.
"Did you see that?" I asked Joe.
"Yes," he answered.
A sight for eyes that had been sorely wrong.