At about 4 o'clock yesterday, in the car, I took off the black armband. The week of telling people about Brent Martin was now over for me. I had just finished doing a day long lecture in Barrie and had been gratified that of the 60 who attended 10 ro 12 were wearing black armbands. Some had obviously picked an idea up from Belinda's guest blog this week and were wearing black scrunchies, but what mattered was that they were there and they were wearing the armband.
Though I told the whole audience about the black armband and about Brent's horrific death, I spoke to a few personally. People who cared and people who wanted to make a difference. People who were thinking about what was next for them, how they could personally make a difference in the lives of those they cared for. So it was with a sense of a little sadness that I took the armband off. I knew that, like those I spoke to, I would be thinking about what more can be done and, though it was little, was glad that I had done at least some little thing in protest of violence against people with disabilities.
Joe turned the car automatically towards home. I asked if we could break the routine and go up to the mall and have a tea at Teopia, a favourite place of mine - a place I don't get to often enough. Joe simply nodded and headed up towards the mall. Normally I help Joe by pushing myself as he is pushing me, I try to take some of the weight off, but Joe said, "Just relax, I'll get you there," and pushed me along.
At Teopia I noticed they had a type of White Tea that I've never tried before so I ordered that and Joe got a 'kick ass' black tea. We sat at a table in the mall and watched people flow by. She came at me from behind so I was quite startled, when a voice said, "Are you Dave Hingsburger?" I said that I was and she took a chair opposite us.
She was wearing a black armband.
I wished I hadn't taken mine off.
She told me that she worked in a group home nearby and was on her way to work - she'd stopped into the mall to pick up something for one of the residents. She didn't have long because she didn't want to keep them waiting but she did want to say that she'd had a powerful week because of the black armband. She told me that the first day she wore it at the group home, those who lived there asked her about it.
She told them.
Then they told her.
About what it was like for them. The stares. The taunts. The everyday social brutality that they experience. A door was opened and they walked through it. For a week they've been talking about Brent, about themselves. "They've always known," she said, "that what was happening to them is wrong. But this is the first time they knew that someone cared about it." She brushed a tear away, "They know it matters to me now."
She ended by saying that her relationship to those she care for is forever altered, forever deepened. She thanked me again for starting the campaign.
When I got back in the car I put the black armband on. The day wasn't over.