My last lecture day was one wherein I was asked to tell some stories that reflect on how we need to understand disability and how we need to reconceptualize service. There were to be two repeat sessions, morning and afternoon. I arrived in plenty of time and we set up really feeling the weight of the trip and though this was the last day ... it seemed long already.
The morning went well and the group was willing to go along with me. I could feel some energy coming back to me from the audience and I began to enjoy the esperience of teaching them. One of the fellows, on he way out, said, "You really pricked my conscience today, thank you." I like that kind of frank acknowledgement that someone saw something in themselves that they wanted to change.
By the time I was to start the afternoon, I was exhausted. I began. Telling stories twice in one day isn't easy as forgetting your place is a real hazard. But I got pulled into the spirit of the lecture, again, by an audience willing me on, willing me well.
When it was over a fellow came to speak to me. He had seemed closed to the lecture throughout and I was suprised that he wanted to talk with me. He began by saying that he wanted to tell me a story about connection and about what it meant to be real and present in the life of someone with a disability.
He had been working with a woman, who had died only very recently after a battle with cancer. His eyes filled at the mention of her death and I waited for him to gather himself. He talked about how close they had come over the years and about how it was his privilege to help her fulfill her dream. She wanted to walk along the ocean in bare feet. She wanted to feel the ocean air on her skin and feel the sand between her toes.
"I remember seeing her walking slowly along the beach. Her shoes in her hands and her feet sunk into the sand. She closed her eyes for a moment to just feel ... the sand ... the breeze ... the sea air. It turned out to be one of those high points in her life."
As she got sicker and sicker from the cancer's progression he would often come visit her. She lit up when she saw him. He, as it turns out a humble man, felt that it wasn't so much his visit that gave her pleasure but the fact that he reminded her of the day her feet walked on a sandy beach. She would look in his eyes and see the ocean.
They bonded there that day, in a moment of pure joy.
Joy. Joy. Joy.
It is in the moments of joy that people can truly meet. In joy there is no heirarchy. In joy there is no king and no serf. In joy there is no master and no slave. In joy there is only the celebration of the human spirit. In joy there is the divine.
The wise man may have built his house on rock ... but this woman began her trip to heaven on sand.
I was thinking about what to write today, the last day of my lecture tour. So many images flood into my mind. But, oddly, I had to wipe a bit of sand off the front of my shirt ... and the blog was suddenly done.