I am here in Butler to do a series of presentations starting with a Train the Trainer session on abuse prevention. Typically I meet with the newbie trainers for about an hour and then run a class for 15 to 20 people with disabilities, then take questions from the trainers afterwards. It may not seem like much but it's a simple class to learn. Powerful lessons can be taught with a sense of fun and opportunities to practice.
Well, we hit a snag when only 2 people with disabilities showed. A decision had to be made so we asked them if it would be ok if I just taught it with them and all the staff joining in to do the activities and role plays. They were generous and said sure. I felt a wee bit silly at first but got into teaching and forgot to be nervous. I noted and hoped all the new trainers noticed that even though there were only two people with disabilities there, they were laughing, participating and learning.
We got to the discussion of the four basic feelings and something wonderful happened. One of the two spoke deeply and with great feeling about what frightened him. He was well spoken, his words well chosen and he spoke with an intense honesty that gripped us all. What he said connected with everyone in the room. He spoke of a fear that is very 'modern' and completely timeless at the same time. In that instant I think we were all glad to be there, all glad to be learning together from each other and from him in particular. It mattered that the session had been run.
It amazes me what can happen when people with disabilities are given time, opportuntity and THE RIGHT QUESTION. Too often our questions of people with disabilities are 'white blouse or blue sweater' 'chocolate milk or diet soda' 'everybody loves raymond or two and a half men'. Choices are wonderful but they are conversation stoppers not interaction starters. Here, today, a man had the opportunity to answer a question he'd clearly been waiting to answer, 'What things scare you?' Questions we ask of people we are interested in. Questions we ask of people who matter to us. Questions we ask when we value the answer.
For a moment he gave me a real hope, a hope that one day someone will ask the right question about disability and someone, somewhere, will finally hear the right answer.