Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Award

It happened just before we were to enter. I was lined up behind the other inductees into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame waiting to enter the room. We were in the Royal York Hotel and the room was packed full of people waiting for the ceremony to start. We heard the MC announce that the 2009 inductees were about the enter the hall. Suddenly the whole room stood up and began to applaud. A chill ran down my spine.

I never expected this to happen. I never expected to enter a room full of people applauding my accomplishments. In fact I never expected to have accomplishments. I grew up with messages of failure from those in positons of power, those in the know, that I was a 'nothing' that I would amount to 'nothing' that 'everything' was beyond my grasp and 'nothing' was what I would settle with. I believed them. Of course I did. They all were adults, they had the magical power of knowing. My self concept began to embrace failure and expect disappointment. I experienced a deep sadness, and profound sense of loneliness. I sat outside that room looking at those people standing and applauding wishing, just for a moment, that I could talk to that lonely young man, the me before. Reassure him that it would be ok. More than ok.

I rode in and couldn't look at anyone in the face, because I didn't know what to do with mine. Finally I pulled into the table where I was sitting with Joe and Manuela, my two guests. Gary and Jill Taylor, two fellow inductees, along with Mrs. Healey, wife of the late inductee Jeff Healey who was with her family who were also at the table. The ceremony began with a few remarks from David Crombie a patron of the Hall of Fame followed by a few words from Lt. Gov. David Onely who arrived on his scooter. It began to feel like a really big event. For most of the weeks leading up to this, I couldn't wrap my head around my inclusion in this list, my nomination or my acceptance. I had somehow managed to turn this honour into something less. Like, if I was getting inducted, it could be all that important.

It must be the habit of those with limited sense of self, 'if I do it, it can't be exceptional' 'if I know it, it can't be important' 'if I've acheived it, it can't really matter'. That's what I'd done with this. People often congratulated me, here on the blog and in the real world, and I accepted the congratulations kind of believing that everyone had been hoodwinked into believing the impossible. Do they see UFO's too?

I was the third recipient. I was guided to the base of the ramp. I knew it would hold me because Joe and I got there early, before everyone, and I checked it out. I waited as my accomplishments were read out, my work regarding healthy sexuality and sexual rights for people with disabiliteis, my work aimed at reducing the abuse of those in care, my 'courage' and 'steadfast' committment to ideals. I couldn't even blush because it seemed, right then, that I was accepting the award on behalf of someone who was unable to attend. When indicated, I glided up the ramp and managed to take hold of the mike.

In my bag, untouched, was the speach that I wrote. I decided, only moments before not to read it out. I decided instead to simply talk. Talk of the trust we are given in care providing roles by family members. I spoke of a man's love for his daughter, his fear that she would be hurt, his impassioned plea to all who worked with her that she be safe. We are given trust. We are given an awesome responsibility to care well for those who are vulnerable to our moods, our words, our touch. I talked about the will to make changes so that all are safe. As I spoke I noticed one man, throughout my talk he slowly pushed his chair away from the able, as if wanting a better view. As I spoke about a father's trust for his daughter's safety he gently nodded. As I spoke about the systems failure to be trustworthy, tears began to fall on his face. I had to look away from him because then I knew, really deeply knew, that the work I do is important, the effort I put into my mission is valuable, and maybe, just maybe, I am too.

I rolled down off that stage not feeling like I had acheived something and now could rest. I came down thinking about what's next to be done. About how the very next day people were coming from Pennsylvania to meet with Manuela and myself about processes, practices and protocols for keeping people safe. About how the work is well under way but not done. About how my hands, which held this beautiful award, needed to place it down and let it gather dust, as I went back to work.

24 comments:

Clay said...

No, they didn't make a mistake, they got the right guy for that award. Congratulations, Dave.

Anonymous said...

Because of you Dave, there are many, many others that are "more than okay".
Congratulations!

Amanda Forest Vivian said...

I've been reading your blog for a few months and I love it. It has helped me learn better ways of thinking about disability rights--and also blogging, because I like the way you tell a story that happened to you and then say what it means. I don't know a lot about your career because I only read your blog, but you seem like an amazing person and I'm so glad this happened to you. The fact that you felt so uncomfortable about getting an award proves that you're the kind of person who deserves one.

J. said...

Thank you.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Congrats on the induction. Acts which live on, and matter are the people who go and do things every day for years or decades. I am glad that the work you have done is being recognized.

As to your speech, I could not agree more. Our desire as Canadians is to look at the 'bright side' and assess the damage later - for example in my town, after hundreds of complaints, deaths of residents and abuse complaints in the hundreds - while no arrest or charges were ever laid, or individuals laid off, it was determined that the disabled in this building would have been better served to have had no caregiving, would have been safer and would have likely lived longer than with the provincial health authority.

Now on to the new museum and the exhibit opening on Tuesday.....

I agree completely, it is a trust. And one, which broken should have consequences which recognize those with disabilities/impairments/illness as equal to any individual. MP's and the Prime Minister have a bond of trust with those who deal with them. Is the accounting the same when that trust is broken? It is, "slipping through the cracks" when the Prime Minister ends up on the curb, or physically slapped for not being fast enough, or demands...and then punishments made in languages he/she doesn't understand? And that is the optimistic running of care. Not the withdrawl of care, the cutbacks in care, the 'emergencies' which prioritize the person getting paid over the person needing the help ('They had an emergency so you get no care today').

I agree with your speech, I agree that more needs to be done. The work is NOT well under way. Not when current treatment for seizure disorders in adults is a CD of soothing music for $7 from the health authorities - unless recommended to the locked ward with ECT to help 'cure' any emotional seizures, with a success rate of 4-6%. They knew this back in 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, 1950.

The R-word awareness program continues as the hottest movies continue to use words that would be unacceptable for race. It is time to start the work.

wendy said...

Now why am I not surprised that you decided to forgo the speech you'd written in favour of something from the heart? I'm glad it felt like a big deal because it is! Congrats again. I'm sure Joe is bursting with pride.

Kris Stableford said...

1. VERY COOL, Dave! Thanks for the detailed description of the ceremony.
2. Jeff Healey, the awesome guitar player, was Canadian? I did not know that.

Mark Pathak said...

Nice one Dave, bathe in the warm adulation for as long as you (both) want to. You deserve it!

Manuela said...

Dave and Joe: I want you to know how honoured I was to be part of yesterday. Dave, the whole room was moved by your story. Your minute speech shook the crowd, even the MC stumbled to start speaking again. I don't think you could of picked more heartfelt and important words to share. I am so proud to be not just a collegue but your friend. The award was for Builder - that is so appropriate because you have built a movement, a desire for change, a vision for a new future. I look forward to continuing to build with you. Thank-you.

Joanna Mallory said...

Dave, I only know you through your insightful comments on the Whatever He Says blog. When Belinda posted about your award, I decided to come over and say congratulations.

Now that I've read your post, I'll be back. I like your heart.

You write, "It must be the habit of those with limited sense of self, 'if I do it, it can't be exceptional'" -- I so relate, and I'm so glad that the reality of how exceptional this achievement of yours is.

You are valuable because of who you are, whether you do anything of perceived value or not, but just reading this I can tell you've accomplished a great deal -- and have a great deal of work ahead of you. Stay strong. What is done for those who can't do it for themselves has greater value, I think, than what the strong do for themselves.

Thank you for the work you're doing, and congratulations!!

Belinda said...

Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah! Well done. And perfect, just as I knew it woud be.

Anonymous said...

I read your blog with tears rolling down my face. I am the grandmother of a special needs child and your speech definitely hit home with me. Our family was given a special gift the day my grand-daughter was born and I live each day hoping those who come in contact with her realize what a precious gift she is. Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for so eloquently stating what so many of us feel.

lina said...

Congratulations Dave, definetly well deserved!! and thank you for sharing your moment.

Susan said...

Last night as we were getting ready to go to sleep, I opened my laptop to show Ron your picture and tell him a bit about the award you were receiving. You know what he said? He said, "Some of us will be leaving a legacy that will last a few years, and some will leave something behind that might last a hundred or two. Dave will be leaving a legacy that goes on for eternity."

Well, done, Dave. Thankyou SO much for taking us to the ceremony through what you have written today. I schemed and thought about how I could get there, and now I have!

So onward and upward! You've got another mountain or two to climb...

rickismom said...

Your acheivements have spread far beyond Canada.
Your work has make parents and workers rethink.
Thank you for what you have done for the disabled. I hope we all can help the momentum of what you have started continue.

liz said...

Congratulations, Dave, you are inspiring.

Gary Miller said...

Dave, just to say a very heartfelt 'Well done'. You more than deserve it.

Gone Fishing said...

From an occupationally induced chemically sensitized, and brain injured short legged bent spined Difficult, Adversarial, so called Non Compliant, Risky Client occasionally set up for fraud charges, which have failed in good Old wee New zeal land I thank and Applaud you and hope you inspire me not to sit back and be run over
Regards and thanks Pete

Krystal said...

What a beautiful post! I worked with physically and developmentally disabled youth and adults while I was in nursing school, so I know there is definitely a need there. Thanks so much for all you do! And congrats on the award! It sounds like you really deserve it!

CJ said...

I know that feeling of being nothing, worth nothing, to be forever, nothing. It came from my parents, sadly.

Congrats Dave. It is good to know that feeling of worth, of meaning in relation to others.

Kristin said...

They definitely picked the right man! You are incredible Dave.

Shan said...

I MISSED IT!

I go off the internet for, what, five days? and you got your award while I was away!

Congratulations Dave, and it couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy.

Shan said...

PS: I can't decide if I want to meet Pete of "Gone Fishing" or if I am too scared.

But someone who can wield an adjective like he can is bound to be interesting company.

Baba Yaga said...

well, belatedly, congratulations. on realising that what you do counts. on expanding the limited self-belief for a minute.
& on the award, of course.