Sometimes I don't get it big time.
I was speaking yesterday in Uckfield, a smallish village in the south of England. As is often the case when presenting in the UK, the audience was a goodly mix of people with disabilities and care providing type folks - parents, paid. I had just finished the first section of my talk and I stopped for questions. An older guy with Down Syndrome put up his hand and I went to him for his question.
At first he didn't have a question. He made a statement. He had listened hard to what I had had to say about 'discovery of selfhood' through joy and he really agreed with what I had said. I smiled feeling really validated. Yesterday in London a similar thing had happened when a young woman with a disability said she was moved by what I said and she actually called down 'God's blessing every day'. After he finished his statement I asked him what gave him joy.
He started to talk with his work with, I'm struggling to remember but I think it was called the partnership board. He spoke of services to people with disabilities. And I'm sitting there thinking that he didn't really understand my question and that he was simply telling me a bit about where he worked and what he was involved in.
So, when he finished, I made noises about how important it was to do the work he was doing and then I went back to ... 'So, now, what gives you joy?"
He looked at me confused and started up again about his work with the partnership board. I got it. I had a diminished expection from him, I was expecting 'ice cream' or 'going to the movies'. Not 'I get joy from the work I do and the purpose I have discovered there.'
When he finished, in front of the audience, I apologized to him. I told him that I understood what it was to get joy from work and passion from purpose. He smiled at the fact that I now got it.
He shook my hand at the end of the day. We are two people working towards a better future. He has Down Syndrome, I'm in a wheelchair, but none of that matters ... as he clearly stated ... the work matters.