Completely entirely, me.
It used to be, before the wheelchair, that way all the time. I didn't realize how much I missed it. I didn't realize how much it means. I don't know how he knew to do it, but I'm glad he did.
We were checking into the Courtyard Hotel here in Columbia and there was a young man working the desk. Joe and I had come in together. After 10 hours in the car, I simply had to get out and come in. We rolled up to the desk and the young fellow, maybe 20, caught my eye and asked, 'Checking In?' I said that indeed we were.
From thence onwards the whole thing was a conversation between he and me as we did the business with getting the room. I always try to ask everything needed at the desk, ensuring that the room is indeed wheelchair accessible, checking on Internet, hours of the restaurant, those sorts of typical things. Even though I was sitting and he was standing, even though Joe was more at his eye level, he seemed to naturally know that though I was lower in stature, I was not lower in status. He spoke completely to me.
Ah, I thought sceptically, the test will be the keys. Since being in the wheelchair, when checking in, the keys are never given to me when Joe is standing with me. They are always handed to him. I'm not sure what that means but it certainly feels like a slight against my competence as a person. Keys were printed and then in my hand. I passed them back to Joe because I needed my hands to push, but it didn't matter. What mattered was that they were given to me.
Once in the room and Joe was out getting luggage, I realized that a simple, normal, human interaction handled with respect had an effect not only on my self esteem but on my sense of dignity. I don't like others having the power to affect how I see myself and how I feel about myself but they do. We all do, on each other. He chose to interact with me as a fully competent, fully able person. In doing so, he chose to build me up, not tear me down. It was a good choice!
I'm thankful that I had an interaction that was based on respect not stereotype. I'm also thankful that I learned again, how important it is to treat others well. How I have power in my interactions to affect how others feel about themselves at the end of the day. That I want respect and therefore should give it. That I want acknowledgement, therefore I should give it.
I do not know if that young man's behaviour was because of raising or because of training. But someone, somewhere, should be proud of that kid.