I got a wonderful email this week. I was given a little gift, one I hadn't asked for, one I didn't even know that I wanted. But it was a gift that gave me some real pleasure.
It a comes from something that happened last year. I had been given the privilege of speaking at the A.C.E. (Advocates for Community Education) conference hosted by Community Living Campbellford/Brighton. This is a conference for people with intellectual disabilities and they came from all over the province. It was a wonderful gathering with real spirit.
There was something akin to celebration in the room. It was infectious. During the break I spoke quickly with Joe. We discussed not taking a fee for the day. We can't do this often, I do need to make a living, but I really felt that I wanted in some real way to support this conference, this opportunity for people with disabilities to gather in some strength to feel their own strength as a community. Knowing that so many people with disabilities simply don't have the financial means to attend conferences or pay for travel, I wondered if my fee could be put aside until next year and be used to assist those who wanted to attend but couldn't. It took no convincing, Joe was on board.
We told the conference committee when they were handing me the cheque, that we were giving the money back. They were a little stunned by the offer but they agreed that they would find a way to make the money available to self advocates the next year. We left it at that. When Joe and I left we felt good about the experience and we talked about how important it was for people with intellectual disabilities to get together and learn the skills necessary for living in the community. Facing down bigotry and prejudice is a skill that those in visible minorities simply have to learn. The community, as we have seen this week, can be a hard, hard place.
As it happens, life came along and soon the experiences at the conference became a dim memory. So when I received an email with the tag line 'Bursary' I had no idea what it was about. I openned it and discovered that the A.C.E. committee had taken the money and created the 'Dave and Joe Bursary' that self advocates could apply for to assist with the conference fee.
I was really touched. I had not asked them to do this. Was thrilled that they did. But what really pleased me was that they, without asking, knew to include Joe's name when naming the bursary. The decision was as much his as mine. The fee was as much his as mine. Though I am at the forefront of these lectures, Joe is definately the man who puts it all together. Further, for the self advocate lectures Joe teaches with me. I can't do that lecture alone. We have signals that only he understands and he knows the programme and his role step by step. So to see the ... 'and Joe' made me really pleased.
This September people with disabilties from Ontario will be gathering together, some of them there because of a busary created by A.C.E. with money donated by us. This idea gives me incredible pleasure.