Saturday, May 08, 2010

Poco Hor! The Lecture come and gone

The lecture day was over. What a relief. Several months ago, I decided that I needed to construct a new message out of some old stories, a different way to look at people with disabilities and the care thereof. Of course, it seemed a good idea at the time. The advertising was done and the registrations came in. The day grew closer and closer. As it did the 'message' that was clear in my head grew fuzzier and fuzzier. I couldn't believe that I'd trapped myself into having to do something new. Dance to a new tune. Sing a new song.

Joe can attest that my nerves grew and grew. I thought about nothing but the lecture and what I had to say. My confidence wasn't high. Even so, I sat down with a pen and began to organize the material for the day. Once it was done, I could sleep. But in sleep I would dream of lecturing and running out of breath, about standing up to talk only to discover my notes were missing, about people refusing to settle down and listen to what I had to say. By the time the day came, yesterday, I was so relieved to get it over with that I was eager to get to the hall.

I spoke in the hall at Villa Columbo, a beautiful place to give a presentation. Wonderful lighting for me, comfortable chairs for those in the audience. People arrived and I saw many I knew. Then came the introduction, then came the start. I looked down at my notes, realized that I'd started wrong, took a quick recalculation and started with two different stories and then went on to the lecture as written.

It ended, as these things do, with applause and a few people coming up to say that they enjoyed the day. I waited as Joe gathered the evaluations and loaded the car. Finally, it was just me sitting outside the room at what had been the registration table. It felt good, I knew it had good well.

Then a woman came to speak to me. She was one of the women who 'worked the hall', cleaning coffee cups, making sure that things were orderly and tidy for the attendees. At every single break she came up to me and asked if I wanted anything, coffee, water, juice. She was a natural hostess, carrying herself with dignity, offering caring warmly. Joe arrived just as she put her hand on my shoulder, then she said, 'You spoke to my heart today. I needed to hear some of what you said." I was really touched, she didn't have to say anything.

I asked her if she worked with or knew people with disabilities.

She said, cryptically, 'Your talk was not about disabilities, didn't you know that?'

I didn't.

And last night I lay awake thinking about what I said and what it meant. I gave up on figuring out what she meant. I was just then, thankful, for the voice I have been given and the opportunities I have to use it.


Kris S. said...

On an unrelated note (that references a previous entry), Dave--I was traveling with my nearly 13 year old daughter and a 13 year old friend yesterday. We were staying at a hotel that offered a free breakfast buffet. The girls' sleepwear was pj pants and tank tops with thin straps. My daughter put a sweatshirt on over her tank top. We were getting ready to go, and I said to my daughter's pal, "It's pretty chilly in the lobby, you might want to put on a warmer shirt." She grabbed a tshirt. So the teen skimpy clothing thing may well be universal, as many people suggested in response to your blog!

Anonymous said...

I attended & you were incredible. Your knowledge & insight as well a the advice you offer is so valuble. I think Your lecture wasnt just about people with disabilities. For me it was about humanity. The good and the bad we all can face. Yesterday I was reminded that I may not know everything about anything, but I know what hurts, words actions and sometimes the lack of.

Thank you David.

Anonymous said...

Your blog isn't just about disability either, Dave.

Anonymous, thank you for finding the words to express what I've been thinking for a long time.


Anonymous said...

I was there too. I had never heard of you before and this is my first visit to your blog. Never in my life have I experienced a lecture like the one you gave. You are a gifted storyteller. But it was more like hearing Churchill or King Jr. at the height of their powers. Amazing.

Kristin said...

Honestly Dave, all your stories can be applied to all people. You remind us to be mindful of how we treat people, to not enter into a situation with preconceived notions about what the person is like. YOU remind us to be decent human beings who treat each other with the respect we all deserve.

Andrea S. said...

I wasn't at the lecture. But just from having read your blog during the past few years, here are some common themes you talk about a lot that don't only apply to people with disabilities:






Be aware of power imbalances. Be aware of the power you might have over others (even if you never asked to have that power) and take care that others don't get hurt by it, even just by accident.

Words can wound. Use them with care.

Words from a person in authority, or a person with power, or a person who is respected, or a person who love you can wound even more than other words. Use particular care with these.

People have a right to autonomy.

Beware that your desire to protect does not override another person's desire--and right--to choose.

Sometimes taking away the option of taking risks can hurt a person more than letting them go.

Beware that your desire to help does not override another person's desire or need to do things him or herself.

Some drives and desires, such as the need for companionship, or to be listened to, or to be cared about, or to have choices in life, are pretty much universal. Don't assume that person X (any person) doesn't share these needs just because Y (any rationale). Sometimes the WAY that a person receives these things may need to be different. But just because you haven't figured out what that way is doesn't mean they don't share the need or desire.

Love matters.

Care matters.

Sometimes just a look or a touch can speak volumes.

Sometimes just sitting with someone, or letting them sit with you, can be enough.






Susan said...

Oh,man! I'm afraid I missed the best lecture yet! But at least I got to pray you through it! :)

Anonymous said...

re: Andrea S.

Yes, yes, YES!


D. I. Harris said...

Dave, your lectures have people with disabilities as the subject of your stories, but that's not what your talks are about.

They're about power, relationships, dreams, prejudice, victimization... and so much more. Your talks are about life.

When I listen to you, or when I read your books I not only improve myself professionally, but personally too. Because you teach me about what's, according to Plato, the most important subject: how we ought to live.