You can tell sometimes, can't you. Just because how someone carries themselves in the world. Or maybe is because of how the light in their eyes has been turned down. Or maybe it's because of the set of their shoulders. But you can tell. Those who have given into messages of worthlessness are legion. They can be young strapping men who look out at others and fail in comparison to what they see. They can be rich housewives who look out, like frightened dogs, at the mood of the master. They can be 8 year old girls who pick up a magazine to look at the pretty girl and suddenly begin the journey from self-dissatisfaction to self-loathing. But you can tell. Pride is not an etherical concept, it's a way of walking, a way of being, a knowledge of how to confront the world.
In New Westminster I was doing a presentation for self advocates on Abuse Prevention. They came in buzzing, loud, joyous people. I knew my job had just got easier. I have taught those who sit in every room like it was the day room on a ward - those who have given up on themselves. But this group, the energy came in with them. Well, except for her. She had Down Syndrome and she trod into the room and chose a seat at the back.
She looked up at me, appraisingly. Then she looked away. She put the Down Sydrome look on her face and sat back to endure the three hour class. I kept glancing back at her. The others were up and role playing and showing off, they were laughing and clapping for each other. All she did was blush when I asked her to come up. A shy refusal combined with a desperate wish to participate. I'd seen it before.
Then just as we were switching to the movie. One of the women said that she didn't want to miss the movie so could we take a short 'pee break'. I agreed. People poured out the room and equally quickly poured back. All were seated. But her seat at the back was empty. Someone explained that she had been at the back of the line for the bathroom.
"Would it be OK for us all to wait?" I asked. They agreed.
She came into the room and then noticed that it was quiet and others were watching her. "You haven't started?" she asked in an impossibly gentle voice.
"No, we decided we wanted to wait for you."
Everyone in the room knew, at that moment to be really quiet. In that quiet she though about what just happened. She looked over the group, not at me, "You waited ................ for me?" The words were shaky. When everyone nodded or said 'yes, of course'. She began to cry. She didn't cover her face she just looked at everyone smiling at her and let the tears fall. She made it back to her seat and I said to her, "Are you ready now?" She nodded.
It was a tender moment. A nice moment. It meant so much to her. And it took, at most 5 minutes. This moment gave me such intense pleasure. The fact that I can make a moment like this happen, that I've been given the privelege of being able to make moments happen, is astonishing to me. I will carry her face around in my memory for a very long time.
When it's possible to choose to make a moment for another. To give someone the 'gift' of mattering' Why don't we do it. More often. For each other, for our families, for shopkeepers in 7/11 or Spar?
On her way out she stopped and waved to me. I'm not sure, but I think she was eight feel taller.