It's the big moment in the class.
Thirty people with disabilities have come to this small room in Orillia. They are there from Barrie, Midland, Collingwood and of course Orillia. The class is about personal power, about abuse prevention, about pride in self and membership in group. I sat in my wheelchair watching people arrive. There were three staff there, all training to teach the workshop themselves, and they were making the room ready. There was an air of anticipation in the room.
There wasn't an empty seat when we started. And from the get go the group decided to learn and to have fun. It's great teaching any group of people who have come with the intention of learning and participating. When I asked questions hands flew up with the desire to answer. Every role play had four or five people volunteering to help out. They laughed at my jokes, laughed at themselves and sometimes the room rocked with the noise. I could see people passing by in the hallway through the window and their eyes would glance in to see what the fuss was about. They'd see a people thought incapable of learning - fully focussed and fully on task.
Then there is the role play that is the 'big moment'. I ask for the woman with the loudest voice to come forward. Joe stands at the back of the room and she stands up front, beside me. Joe says, 'Hey you want a ride?" Her job is to yell 'no' so loud that his hair moves. Her first attempt is good, but his hair doesn't move. Then we get up two more, then four more, then 6 more, then we get up a couple of men, a couple more men. Then we get up a few staff. Then we get up anyone who wants to come up. Now I can barely see Joe through the crowd at the front. There are only one or two people sitting down, the rest are up with me at the front.
Joe says, "Hey you want a ride?" The whole room yells, "NO!" and Joe flings himself against the back wall. A cheer goes up that lifts the roof. It's fun. I love that moment. The woman standing next to me, a middle aged woman with Down Syndrome, laughs so hard that she wipes tears from her eyes. She says to me as she makes her way back to her seat, "This is what it's all about."
"Saying no feels good doesn't it?" I say, people are still streaming by us to get back to their seats, she looks at me and says hestiantly, "Yes."
"That's not what you meant?"
"No," she said.
"What's it all about?" I ask.
"Not being alone."
Of course. The class is about abuse prevention, but it's also about much more. It's about community, it's about learning from each other, it's about discovering your own adequacies, it's about being strong individually but powerful as a group.
It's about ... not being alone.
That's why I love that moment in the class, I think. Sitting there surrounded by disabled people in disabled bodies having a powerful moment together. There is the loss of aloneness.
This time it's me who wipes, discreetly, my eyes.