It was an amazing two days in Butler. I spoke in a wonderful theatre on campus of the local college. It's always an intimidating ride, rolling backstage in a real theatre with the large black curtains, the curious markings on the floor and the dressing rooms. I joked with Joe that I should go back at breaks and change my shirt, a costume change to keep them interested. There in center stage, up near the front, was a table and a glass of water. I sat there and pulled out my notes and readied myself for the day. By the time I'd got my tea set up, had my notes arranged, it was time to start. There were 350 in seats waiting. I swallowed my nerves and began.
From the start the audience was warm and welcoming. During question times they were also inquisitive and challenging. I love an audience that will talk with me. At times it felt more like a fireside chat than a lecture to 350 people. I realized I was having a good time. The next day I was back in place and so were they and we began again. The first day was on sexuality, a fun workshop, today was on abuse prevention - a much darker topic. I worried, needlessly it turned out, that 'they won't like me' when the stories aren't funny. But again, they embraced the material as I went along.
Somewhere during the day I was talking to Manuela about the upcoming AGM for Vita and about the statistics she needed from me for the report. I told her that I had emailed everyone and would have them for her quickly. At lunch time I hooked my computer up and was able to use the college's wireless provider to check my emails. I had most of what Manuela wanted and was stunned by the numbers. We'd offered Relationship Training and Abuse prevention to over two hundred people with disabilities within the agency last year. That's OVER two hundred. I knew that we'd been busy but that number blew me away.
There was more fire in my gut when I started again in the afternoon. I was talking about abuse prevention in Butler but I was DOING abuse prevention back home. I wasn't just someone who talked about an idea, I was someone who was actively doing something. It felt good. I knew it could be done. I think that shone through my presentation because when I finished, 350 people stood and applauded.
I never know where to look when this happens, it doesn't happen that often, because I know that they are not applauding me. I know that they are standing up and applauding as a signal that they too get it, that they too want a safe world for people with disabilities.
We got in the car and drove home, sitting quietly for a long time. Somewhere about 50 miles along Joe took my hand and said, "Good day, huh?" And for some reason, I began to cry.
Fab - who often posts comments here wrote two blogs about the Butler presentions including a nice one about Joe. If you'd like to see her take on the two days please visit http://fab-searchformeaning.blogspot.com/