Wednesday, June 30, 2010


First, I am only human.

Second, I've never before taken on something as huge as the Blog Carnival turned out to be.

Third, I make mistakes.

It has come to my attention that I missed some blogs that were submitted on time. I hereby quickly and without reservation, apologize. I ask that people understand that any omission was simply an error and nothing more. I am going to do a 'Spawn of Blog Carnival' Next week and try to get those missed in. If I missed you, please let me know. I will announce the post, which will ONLY feature missed blogs, the day before.

Again, I ask for patience and understanding.

Battles Still Raging

We stopped to pick up an elderly man. Even though we were a little early he was sitting outside on his scooter. He was dapper in his Legion jacket and he had a small carry-case beside him. As he was locked in beside me we began chatting. He told me that he was flying half way across the country to visit family. There was a faint whisp of pride that, though he was an old man, he was still capable of making extraordinary journeys.

I asked him how he has fared, travelling with a scooter as he was. He said that his airline was very good with him and his scooter. It was always right there waiting for him. I was pleased for him and, as we were well on our way, we fell silent. I had this huge internal battle raging, I wanted to tell him that I admired him and the men of his generation who went into battles raging. I admire the courage and the determination of men who fought and died for my freedom. I want to thank him but don't know how.

Suddenly we are at the airport pulling into Terminal One. I know his airline flies out of Terminal Three. As we pull to the curb I say to him and the driver, 'This is the wrong terminal, his airline flies out of Three.' The driver, who had heard him talk about which airline he flew, picked up the trip sheet which was clipped to a clipboard and flicked his finger on the sheet while saying, 'He booked One.' I glanced at my fellow passenger, thinking I'd made a mistake and said, 'Don't you fly out of Three.' He nodded and said to the driver, 'I need to go to Terminal Three.' The driver, again, flicked his finger at the trip sheet and said, 'You booked One.' Fear filled the face of the old man as he tried to imagine how he was going to get over to the other terminal.

The driver unlatched his scooter and walked in with him to the terminal. I knew, from conversations with other drivers that WheelTrans has a policy that you must be dropped off where you book to be dropped off. I even understand why they'd have that policy. I understand the issues of liability, I've worked in the field of human services my whole life. But I also know that for every rule there is an exception, that it's important to be able to think through situations and deal with them as they come, that a call to a supervisor can deal with rules. But I know something else, I am only a passenger and after the driver returns I will be alone with him. I don't want him angry with me. My safety is in his hands. I am becoming a coward because of my own vulnerability and this makes me furious, quiet but furious.

He gets back on and says, 'I tried to find someone that could help him but couldn't.' I thought, 'but you were the person who should have helped him.' In fact he was in with the old guy looking for help longer than it would have taken to drive over to the other terminal. So I rode to work.

I got in and immediately called customer service. The woman there couldn't understand my concern, I told her that the driver did nothing technically wrong but his actions were still very wrong. She said in a bored voice, 'So you want to make a complaint against the driver.' I said, 'Well, no, I want to talk about the problem and the solution and the need for flexibility and the provision of options.' There was a pause, 'You'll need to talk to a supervisor.'

And so I have, but that will need to be the subject of another post.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Today Joe and I celebrate our 41st anniversary. We finished work yesterday and then snuck away to a favourite spot up north. We overlook a lake and have a lovely patio where we can sit and quietly contemplate the world. It's rare for us to go away by ourselves with no purpose and no plans. We've brought up some books, come crosswords and we have some computer games we can play if we wish.

For a whole day we are going to just be quietly together. We spend so much time travelling and being in groups, so much time at home with things to do, we figure we'll just be two cool older guys just doing nothing. Absolutely nothing.

So, I figure you've all got lots of reading on the Carnival so please forgive me as Joe and I take today off. I'll be back with a blog on Wednesday morning.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Disability Blog Carnival #67: Proud Voices.

V. O. I. C. E.

I received a gift in the mail from a reader several months back. 5 wooden letters, cut from wood, painted white, trimmed with gold. Together they spell the word, voice. I have them on the window sill by my desk. I look up often and consider them. The word reminds me that the authentic ‘voice’ of a person is to be honoured. The authentic voice that comes from a place of truth and vulnerability. The authentic voice that speaks out from the experience of being, living, hurting, wondering. It’s not heard often.

When I took on the task to put together the Disability Blog Carnival, I asked to be allowed the theme of ‘pride’. After all I’d be doing it during the month that ‘Pride’ was celebrated. I’d be doing it on the day that the rest of the world (not Toronto because Pride was delayed in a cab from the airport by the G8 and will not arrive for a week) celebrates LGBT Pride. (Forgive me for not using the whole alphabet of initials, they change so often I’m scared of making a mistake.) So I wanted writers to choose something that they had written and of which they were proud. A blog that they thought represented well some aspect of life with a disability or of disability culture or disability experience.

What I got?

Authentic voice.

People are proud of writing that comes from a place that’s often deep and secret. People are proud when they manage to put into words anger, fears, terror, tears, love, longing, regret, fury … I found myself going on a real journey here. My intros are brief, the blog is long. We have a huge number of contributors. I’ve only used the names that appear on the blog. These appear in no order, I did not attempt to group them, I did not attempt to make them flow. I think the haphazard way they bring up various topics works.

I also need to warn those who sent in multiple blogs, or simply blogs but no specific post. I only did one of those you sent and I just randomly picked it, I did not read them all and then choose one, I did not include any that were simply blogs without a specific post. Sorry on both counts, but I had to make a decision and that's the one I made.

All I ask of you is to limber up you commenting muscles. Make sure that these bloggers know you visited and that you appreciate their time and energy. Sometimes it gets lonely as a blogger. Your voice and your presence make it all worthwhile.



"So, what's it like?" We get this question a lot as people with disabilities. lifeofthedifferentlyabled of the In My Eyes Blog writes a post describing what it ‘feels like’ to have Cerebral Palsy. She is doing so because a mother wants to better understand what her child is experiencing. The post gives a tremendous glimpse into another’s experience.

Astrid of Astrid’s Journal takes on tragedy, suffering and victimhood as it applies to the language with with other’s use to define us. She points out that one may have a disability and one may suffer but there is much care to be taken in making this a causal connection.

“Why does it take so long to go through anger to get to acceptance?” We’ve all as people with disabilities wanted to hurry the process along. Assiya in her blog For a Fairer Today takes on this issue brilliantly.

“Ain’t I a woman?” brilliantmindbrokenbody writes a brilliant update on the famous Sojourner Truth speech. This is one of those speeches that you wish you could hear thundering from a podium with cheering crowds being inspired by it’s words.

Ever read a book and then thought hard about your life? That’s what happened to Kate and she documents the plot and then the radical message that developed from it. From Nietzsche to living by choice … there is realization here for all of us.

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg proves that it makes sense for those who would define us to talk to us first. She takes on the mammoth task of rewriting the DSM IV criteria for autism – and does a hell of a job with it.

"Give me a minute." Ever wish you had just a few seconds to think of the right thing to say? Rickismom said that she had to let her blog percolate a bit before writing but, let me tell you she served up some might fine and mighty strong coffee. Her view on 'Sainthood' in our society is interesting and disturbing. Too, she gives a great example of speaking up when speaking up is needed.

“Oh, they are always so happy?” You’ve heard the myth and it annoys you, right? Well Tamara sees it for what it is and takes it on. That people with disabilities have full emotional lives is startling news to those who prefer to think of us as happily, drooling, gooing babies. Tamara, set’em straight!

The Secret to reading Frida’s post is to have anger management strategies at ready avail. She takes on the ‘philosophy’ behind ‘The Secret’ and finds more of the same blaming the victim bull. A well reasoned showing that you can’t teach and old dogma new tricks.

When you go to Eunice Gordon’s blog, if you aren’t multi-lingual you may want to click away, but don’t. Go further down and read the translation. You’ll be glad you did. Get a hanky first, though, you may need it. Euncie, I love this kind of story.

Fat People In Scooters! Oh. No. It’s time for Moose to tell us about a discussion of the right of fat people to be disabled and to require scooters. There are all sorts of assumptions about weight and about disability and sometimes when the wires cross there’s sparks. But sparks, like this post, provide light.

“People with disabilities don't need people to speak FOR them - they need people to listen TO them when they speak!” Stephanie writes in her blog about the Family Guy and Sarah Palin controversy. Thought you’d heard every point of view. Think again.

“What is truth?” Well take the journey with Tara as she travels from doubt to truth. She speaks honestly about her fears of adequacy and the pain that the words that others use to describe her child causes. From Doubt to Truth … a journey of a lifetime.

I love looking at other’s photo albums. It’s a great way to get a glimpse into another’s life. AKW provides pictures, including a kid in a pumpkin suit, how cool is that, along with the story of her child with Down’s Syndrome’s first year. That parents have much to say, to contribute to the discussion of disability is never clearer.

At Scribblings From a Melted Crayon, EIRAMYLLEK 73 writes a powerful post on a day where she was feeling angry and frustrated. Sometimes anger is the source for a powerful rant. I can only say go!

Yoda? Someone managed to get Yoda into a disability post? All right!! Janna Hoskin writes about the ‘you’ve got to try harder’ and the ‘if you want to do it you will’ attitude that permeates self help books and science fiction. She not only brings in Yoda but Hans Solo too. How cool is that?

And if we're going to be visited by Yoda, why not Harry Potter and his invisibility cloak? Spaz Girl deals with invisibility, an experience well known by those with disabilities, in an engaging way.

The first poem to appear on the Carnival and it’s wonderful. The Yet Untitled Poem by Tokah. It speaks many truths about who we are as disabled people and how doctors portray us. It speaks wonderfully about the lives we live. The lives we love.

Take a calm pill before you read what neverthateasy’s sister in law had to say. I got that far in the blog, saw red for about five minutes and had to do some deep breathing. Boy, oh boy, the words that people say and the effect they have.

Disability is contagious!!! Why didn’t someone tell me? That’s Ashley’s Mom’s question and it lead to this wonderful blog. Yeah, back up butter cup, if I breathe on you maybe you’ll catch what you fear – fat and disabled, but I hope you catch – humour and determination. It’s all in the way you approach it.

That Maven of Disability History, Penny Richards introduced us to the short, terrible life of George Everitt Green. I won’t give away the story, but brace yourself. This story indicates that the devaluing of the life of someone with a disability has been with us for too long. Too, too long.

It's no secret to readers of this blog and for those who know me personally that .Dick Sobsey is one of my heroes. He has been one of the loudest voices raising the issue of the crimes and abuses against people with disabilities. He has send us a blog that he wrote that appears on a site that wonders 'what sort of people' are wanted.

The Farmer, The Spoon and the Plow. Andrea tells a story that has more than one meaning. A delightful tale, a powerful point.

With all apologies, this is a late entry, not by Lene but by me. I missed this one and went looking for it. It's perfect for this collection because as she says she wants to write with emotional honesty another way of saying authentic voice.

Will there be disabilities in heaven? Who better to take on the question than Belinda, winner of a number of awards for her blog on faith. To answer the question more fully she discovers a voice on the Internet and brings it to her blog. Ever wonder about heaven, maybe wonder no more.

Shannon, my niece, did not submit a blog and because we’re family and she has to love me and forgive me my ways, I am surprising her by including a blog she wrote that made me proud to know her. She had been writing about how many people abandon those who become seriously ill, friends one day, strangers the next. In considering this phenomenon she wrote a post that really struck me.

So what did I choose. I spent and embarrassing amount of time looking. In the end I decided on a blog post I wrote not that long ago. It says much of what I really believe, I hope it speaks to you too.

Disability Carnival's are supposed to give you the opportunity to visit new blogs or re-visit old friends. I think there is something here for everyone and was really pleased at the response. Please take your time to go through them, you don't have to rush. You don't have to buy a ticket for this carnival admittance is free.

The next blog carnival will be hosted by .RMJ. I haven't been told the topic yet, but check there or contact Penny Richards. Thanks again all

Saturday, June 26, 2010












Just A Little Taste

Friday was a 'they pay me for this' day. It was 'Fun Day' at Vita and our programme at Tycos hosted a huge party for Vita members and staff. I went last year and couldn't wait to go again this year. It's wonderful to be 'just us' all together. I did have a purpose to be there, beyond having fun and chatting with various and sundry. I needed to write the day up, immediately, so that it could be included in the organizational newsletter. A spot had been held for the article and I needed to write it just before noon.

It was easy to write. Looking around you saw evidence that the Tyco's crew, members and staff, had worked hard for months to prepare for the day. Decorations and murals were everywhere. Activities ringed the back parking lot and there were people everywhere having fun. Joe and I (Joe doesn't work at Vita but wouldn't miss fun day for the world) tried some of the games and discovered that we were equally bad at basketball and shuffleboard. We can never retire.

The article was written just before lunch and when I came back out from the computer room the smell of Bar B Que was everywhere. Awesome. There was a choice of regular burgers, veggie burgers, halal burgers ... the choice was endless. A reflection of a diverse agency, a reflection of respect for differences. At one point I was beckoned over to chat with a woman I have known for several years. I couldn't come at that point so I called to her that I would chat with her later.

Indeed, when I was free I went in search of her. Promise made ... you know the drill. I found her and she was just finishing a hot dog. I asked her if it was good and she said, 'Vita has the best hot dogs!' I laughed and said, 'Didn't they have Bar B. Ques in the institution?'

She looked at me queerly. (Shut up that's exactly the right word.)

I waited for her to answer and she said, 'What did you say.' There was incredulity in her voice.

I knew I'd said something wrong but there was nothing to do but answer her, 'I asked if they had Bar B. Ques in the institution.'

She shook her head and said, 'David, you know none of those count.'

And I guess they don't. Food eaten in captivity will never taste like food eaten in freedom. I keep forgetting that people with disabilities felt their captivity which means they tasted incarceration as a spice cooked into food. I said to her, 'You're right, I'm sorry, I should have known.'

She's a wise one, she said, 'But how could you?'

I can never know what it feels like to walk down long corridors, to eat lukewarm food, to look out the window and watch people freely walk by. I can never know what it feels like to have been designated, because of who I am in the world, inappropriate to live in the world. Disability, the crime of being.

But for her, now, she is here and she is free. I know she doesn't want me to dwell on our conversation, but I do. Because I learned from her. I learned to taste, with every bite, the freedom that I live.

And. My. God. It's a wonderful flavour.

Friday, June 25, 2010










Have you ever seen a plant, wilted by the sun, restore itself after a drink of water and a bit of shade. Have you seen it come back to life, lift up its arms and celebrate just being? Have you? I have. And I saw something similar yesterday.

I went for a haircut. I pulled in to place beside an elderly woman who sat collapsed in the barber chair next to me. Her walker was folded and leaned against the wall beside her. The stylist was a young man, clean shaven but with a blue hue on a strong jaw. His hands moved quickly and efficiently as he cut and brushed her hair.

The woman I go to is great with sissors but poor with English. She sometimes wants to practice with me, sometimes she seems tired of the struggle. Today she smiled but did not talk. That's ok with me. I like quiet too. In that quiet I notice the woman next to me. It was coming close to the end of the haircut. But the stylist stopped, looked finished but then said, 'I think there are a couple of hairs here,' pointing to the bangs hanging on her forehead, 'that need trimmed.' His finger brushed against her skin, once, maybe twice, as he indicated where the trim was necessary, then she nodded agreement.

He trimmed there and there, as he said, 'That looks better'. Then he asked about how the hair felt over her ears, while doing so he held his comb pointing out while his fingers traced the cut over the ears. She said that the hair felt good as it lay. He shook his head and said, 'Let me try this,' and clipped something almost invisible away. She grinned as she looked at the result and said, 'Oh yes, that does feel better.'

As he put the finishing touches on the experience, not the hair cut, she drank as if from water, she sat as if in shade. Little, tiny, acts of kindess, acts of attention, acts of humanity, made so much difference to her. He knew he could safely give her these gifts, she readily recieved them.

She left the salon walking easily with her walker. He said to the woman cutting my hair, 'She always walks better after a haircut.'

Mine nodded, smiling.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Unveiling Myself

A few days ago someone asked for me to post pictures of Joe and I on the journey through this relationship. I'm afraid that's not possible. We don't have a lot of photos, we've never been that 'way'. We've marvelous memories but few photos and the one's we have I would have no idea how to get on to the computer.

But luckily for you I've been painted by a professional portrait artist. She's presently at work on one of Joe. She did me first because she's conquered circles and with the wheelchair and ... um ... my general shape, she began with me.

So this is the official unveiling of my portrait by an artist as a young girl. I love the fact that Ruby sees the wheelchair as a natural extension of who I am. But, I'll leave the interpretation to you.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

please note

The time frame for submitting Disability Blog Carnival has now elapsed. I'm sorry if you are just finding out about it or just hadn't got around to it. I need a lot of time to put it together as it stands now. Thanks to all of you who submitted, it's an amazing bunch of blogs.


I've had an interesting couple of days. I'm working at putting together the Disability Carnival which will appear this Sunday. So many of you have sent me posts to include, posts which I have been reading and making notes about. I am learning a lot about disability and a lot about the readers of this blog. It's a cool thing collaboration.

The thing that troubled me was doing what I asked others to do, I asked for people to choose the blog they had written that they are the most proud of, not the one that got the most notice but the one that they felt they expressed something important about the disability experience. I wasn't sure which post to include so I went back to review some early blog posts.


That's quite a journey. When I started this blog I was new into the identity of being a person with a disability. I found reading some posts, now, from the perspective of three years in a chair - informing. Of course I should have expected some growth in insight and maturity. I didn't expect to be reminded so much about the journey, I didn't expect to have such clear snapshots of the process.

It reminds me that all of us grow into our lives and into our bodies. No wonder those who are newly disabled are so captive-ated by the experience of a wheelchair, a walker, difficult speech or an unsteady gait. No wonder, they are taking 'baby steps' into a new identity. Babies cry because the world is a big and frightening place to contemplate. Babies cry because they have needs - that used to be fulfilled without muss or fuss - that they don't know how to communicate. Babies cry because they are growing into the way that they will be and growth is hard. So too it is with growing into a new identity. Old needs, new methods. Old world, new pathways. Old dreams, new visions. It's tough.

I imagine that, two years from now I will look back at the posts I have written and will write this year and go ...


My. Oh. My.

But that's OK. I'm allowed to grow. So are you. I'm allowed to learn how to more comfortably be me. I'm allowed to discover that Dave-land is a vast place with several rides I have not purchased tickets for, several torchless dark corners to turn, several pop quizzes to take but no classes to learn. You-land is much the same with different rides, different corners, different quizzes. But the same end.



That's cool.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The High Price of a Cob of Corn

"Let it go, let it go, let it go," I mumble to myself. I don't want to be in 'activist' mode. I don't want to kick up a fuss. I just want to have a good time. If you've guessed that I failed in my attempt, you're right. Damn.

We went over to the 1000 Tastes of Toronto festival held in Queen's Park, which is a few blocks from our home. The park looked wonderfully phantasmagorical, full of enormous and outrageous plastic, air filled, sculptures. It was a joy to ride through and watch kids eyes as they pushed at giant balloons or hid behind huge mushrooms. Several companies had booths. I knew going in that some would be out of the question for me because nature is sometimes inaccessible - I get that. But I saw a booth that interested me immediately. It was a booth for Telus (a telephone provider) and it had a sign announcing that you could go in and create digital graffiti.

How cool is that?

I went over and found that the door to the booth was very, very, narrow. No way could I get into it, no way could someone in a regular sized manual chair get into it, it was designed in such a way that accessibility wasn't even considered. I went to the booth and Joe, poor long-suffering, I just want to go to the park for fun, Joe walked on. I spoke with the guy working the booth. I said, 'You know that this door is so narrow that no one in a wheelchair can get in.' He said, 'Yeah, I know.' That was it. I continued to stare at him in disbelief, he knew and he didn't give a shit! Then he hastily added, just to get rid of me: "I'll mention it to the company."

It irritated me. OK, I don't like going over grass in my chair. I don't want them to pave over grass, I'm not unreasonable. But to make a freaking booth and bring it down for public use and by design have a huge percentage of the population left out - what kind of corporate responsibility is that? Telus, shame on you.

Then we headed over to where the food was, I asked about best access and was directed by a staffer to go around onto the road. We did and found ourselves at the ass end of the booths. They weren't serving on this side at all. We went back, I spoke to another volunteer and complained that I, as a person with a disability was sent to the back door, what to beg for scraps? She didn't get it.

Now we're going along and there was a big President's Choice display where people could enter a contest to win an amazing prize. It looked fun. People were using huge computer touch screens to write something. "I'll enter," I thought. Oh no, to get to the display you had to go down a curb. No provisions were made for people with disabilities to enter. None. President's Choice, shame on you. Next time I have a Choice it won't be you.

We did manage to find some wonderful food and met some wonderful people, yeah. But I had to keep swallowing down, I think, justifiable annoyance and upset. Finally after finishing a wonderful cob of roasted corn with hot peppers, we went home.

I now dub the event, 1001 Tastes of Toronto - just to ensure that they include bitter.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I Is What I Is

So, I was challenged the other day to make a list of all my guilty secret pleasures. Things that I know others may look askance at. I thought I was fairly public here on the blog with that kind of thing. But OK, I'm up for it. I challenge you to join me in making a list of a dozen things that you like - things you don't tell EVERYone. You need to include in the list the thing you like best about what you look like.

1) Madonna. (THE Madonna, Jesus' Ma. My favourite biblical quote belongs to her, and in all the pictures of her, she looks so nice.)

2) Madonna. (The OTHER Madonna, who I think the former would approve of by the by.)

3) Japanese Sencha Tea. (Yeah, I'm that specific.)

4) Tescos. (Best place in the world to shop.)

5) Butter Tarts. (Uniquely Canadian delicacy.)

6) My eyes. (There I admit it, I like the colour of my eyes. So there.)

7) Horseradish. (What it has to do with horses or radishes I don't know.)

8) Fart jokes. (They may stink but they never get old.)

9) Broadway songs. (Bet that doesn't really surprise you.)

10) Pink lemonade. (Yellow lemonade - who thought of that?)

11) Tim Horton's not Starbucks. (Tim's green tea way beats Starbucks.)

12) Sue Thomas, FBEye. (We watch it every day at 5. Best drama on television.)

I decided to leave off the things that I've made very clear here on the blog. Writing, Henry - my power chair, Cooking, Green Tea in general, Dogs, anything to do with Joe. So, there, I've come out with it.

Now you go.

Remember too, that next Sunday is the Blog Carnival. Give me links to the blog you wrote that you are proudest of. I have a number of submissions so far but ... I'll be taking submissions until the end of the day today. I'll be putting the post together over the next several days.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I tried to stop myself but couldn't.

I knew that I shouldn't feel anything - but I did.

Toronto is Canada's largest city. Yonge Street has some of Canada's busiest intersections, there are cars, people, wheelchairs and strollers everywhere. We had picked up a tea and were heading over to sit and drink it in George Hislop parkette. I had to pause before rolling over the cut curb to head to the east side of the street to let a woman pass. I glanced at her only so that I could see when I could safely move. And I noticed.

Really noticed.

She was maybe twenty years old. She walked with a hurried pace. A smile indicated that something fun had just happened or was about to. She had a blue backpack slung over a turquoise tee. Her jeans were tight with intention not weight. She stepped past me, not seeing me, only seeing her destination. She was alone.

And ...

She had Down Syndrome.

It shouldn't matter to me. But it did. As I drove across the street I found my eyes filling with tears. My life flashed before my eyes, it's not death that brings rapid memory - it's life. I flashed to an elementary school with no children with disabilities. I flashed to a high school with no teens with disabilities. I flashed through my teens to my twenties to my thirties. People with disabilities existed only in a professional capacity. They did not exist in public. They did not exist without wearing the uniform of helpless captive - a staff or parent beside them. The certainly did not exist, alone, on city streets, wearing turquoise tees and sexy jeans.

Instantly I wanted every doctor who would tell an expecting parent that people with Down Syndrome have no hope, no future, to see her. Instantly I wanted every educational expert that thinks that people with difficultly learning, don't, to see her. Instantly I wanted every parent that worries that their child may never live freely, to see her. Instantly I wanted history to shout 'WE WERE WRONG!!!!!' from the rooftops.

Her freedom.

Her independence.

Her jeans that dad would disapprove of.

They mean something.

They mean that Hitler was wrong. They mean that genes may form us but not define us. They mean that a medical degree does not a shaman make. They mean that the crystal ball that geneticists use to see the future needs to be grabbed from their hands and smashed to the floor. They mean that we all need to redefine possibilities to mean ... possibilities.

They means that all those years of parental love and support, all those tears cried by mothers who struggled to teach, all those hours that father's spent encouraging, well it means they mattered.

Really mattered.

A few hours later I asked Joe if he had seen her. He had not. He quickly apologized saying he was talking with Tessa who was along for the trip. But I didn't want him to have seen her, notice her. It makes sense that she just blend in with all the rest. Because I don't want her to be 'other' I want her to be simply 'another'.

And she will, one day, to me. The day when it is no longer remarkable to see people living their potential. To see people with Down Syndrome simply being who they were always capable of being. To see freedom as the end result of climbing a steeper slope.

But for now, to me, I need to see her.

And I'm glad I did.

Even though, I shouldn't have.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Helen Keller Mythbusting Blogswarm

Peter Fagan.

The man who almost married Helen Keller. The man who ran headlong into the complex mixture of power, opinion and prejudice as it relates to the sexuality of someone with a disability. The man who saw Helen as a woman, not as a child, not as a product, not as a disability, but as a woman. His name is never mentioned. Their love story is never told.

Yet the experience of people with disabilities, through all history, is replete with stories of forbidden love, ruined relationships and the icy cold grip of another's control. The first time I was ever asked to break up a relationship between two people with disabilities who had fallen in love, I was astonished that someone thought that this was my job. Many people with disabilities do not love freely. They love under the approval or disapproval of care providers. They love when committees meet, when teams agree, when plans allow. They love, sometimes only in secret, hidden ways.

Helen and Peter met and fell in love. They knew to keep their passion a secret. They knew that others would disapprove. Peter slipped away to get a marriage licence and suddenly the private was public. Helen was kidnapped, by an angry mother and a controlling care provider. Peter was sent away. Their love, ultimately, died. Annie Sullivan may have taught the word water but she wanted nothing to do with the word love. Helen wrote about her desire for love but it would be forbidden to her.

The hardest question I have ever been asked by someone with a disability was 'Is it OK for me to love?'

I knew his parents disapproved.

I knew his agency would throw a fit.

I knew they system would go into apoplexy.

But I said, 'Yes ... but ...'

Helen Keller, we all remember the little girl with her hands under the tap. We need, now to remember her as a woman with her heart under wrap.


(This post is written as part of the Helen Keller Mythbusting Blogswarm, which you can read about by clicking here. I could find no photo of him, but if anyone can Penny Richards can.)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Living in 3D: Diversity, Difference and Disability

We at Vita Community Living Services have been busily looking for a means to develop an atmosphere of 'Disability Pride' throughout the organization. We have found precious few images that we can use and as such we have set about creating something to fill the void. I've been wanting to address the subject of 'Pride in Disability' throughout the organization and have been working diligently to create a year long curriculum. I imagine doing an event throughout the organization once every month. The idea is to give us the opportunity to give positive messages about diversity, difference and disability.

Our Self Esteem teachers have told me that the individuals that take their classes WANT to learn about their disability, they want to understand what their disability means, they want to understand and talk about the stares and the sometimes hostile treatment they experience in the community. It became clear in these classes that people with disabilities 'see' the everyday social acts of discrimination and need a forum to learn how to interpret them and react to them.

As an organization we have committed to the concept of safety. So we need to encourage safety in the larger community but then there is the radical concept of safety in the small inner community of self. Those voices that we use when we speak to ourselves can either be kind or cruel. Those voices can echo negative words about disability or they can learn to speak the kinder words of truth - that we are all different but worthy.

Safety within. Safety without.

So, here is the image that we have created. I present this to you with a great sense of pride - is that irony or coincidence - I've never known the difference.

To explain some of what you are seeing. The sign at the heart of the image is 'together' ... now look in the image itself, on the young boy's tee shirt you will see the braille symbol for people, again ... look ... you will see that a woman is signing 'love'. Any of the ways that you combine these words, they say something important.

What's best for me, in looking at this image, is remembering the discussions in the creation of it. The idea came from artwork that I saw in Edmonton and then grew and changed becoming more and more inclusive with each version.

Hope you like it.


Hope you love it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

You've Been Carded

In a couple of weeks it will be Gay Pride Day in Toronto. Vita Community Living Services will be marching with our LGBT group in the parade. The parade is a celebration but we felt that we wanted to be there with a message. We want everyone to feel pride, no matter the difference, no matter the diversity, no matter the disability. We wanted to continue the work of creating a safe community for all. We decided that we wanted to ask a community which fights for pride, acceptance and respect to join in our fight for respectful language.

Our Words Hit cards have gone wild. Manuela and I were in New York City and were given the cards by a self advocate group. I was in Butler and had forgotten to bring some cards, Natalie got them for me from her truck. The cards are everywhere. So, building on that success we've printed thousands of the following cards:

It is our goal to hand out all of them at the parade. I wanted to put them up here on the blog should others want to reproduce them to use in Pride events all over the world. It's a day to celebrate pride and the best way to do that is to honour and respect diversity. We're here. We're weird. Get used to it.

I am so proud to be marching in the parade alongside those with both physical and intellectual disabilities. Alongside care providers and allies. Alongside all who wish for a world that welcomes!

The cards do not mention 'Gay Pride Day'. This is because we are hopeful that this card can be used anytime you hear people using words that hurt others, specifically words targetted at those from the LGBT community along with those aimed at people with intellectual disabilities. We believe it is time that we all start building bridges between minority communities. We all have much to share, including an incredible amount of power. First we need to learn to respect each other, honour each other's difference and then, once done, join hands in the fight for respect and justice.

Here's to a world where gay kids get call names like 'Jason' and 'Jasmine' and disabled kids get called names like 'Shawn' and 'Sharrisa'. Here's to the world I didn't live in but dreamed I one day would.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Alpha and the Oprah

I'm a fan!

I was up early yesterday morning, as I always am and was actually surfing the net. I like a sport that doesn't require balance, or indeed, standing. I came across this amazing story and an even more amazing video. It all begins with Oprah. Apparently she is now giving away a television show. That woman knows how to give a gift! People are requested to make an audition tape and then post it on the contest board.

A young man with cerebral palsy, Zach Anner, has posted an audition tape. It is clever, it is funny, it is positively brilliant. Curious, well click here to see the audition. Then ... vote.

Zach's tape has caught the attention of some major hitters in the entertainment world, that's cool. They like his moxie and his sense of humour. I'd like Zach to also feel the presence and support of the disability community. I have three hundred of you who visit faithfully, if you all voted, well, that would be three hundred more. And, if you send the link to ten each - well, do the math because I can't.

If this post ever gets to Zach, hey buddy, a travel show - you are a brave man! I travel for a living and get to deal with the lovely and friendly people at airports, the amazing accommodating people at hotels, the fabulous and welcoming waiters at restaurants I can't get into. Man, I can't wait to see how you make that funny. But I trust you will.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Grow Up

Man, you've got to have buckets of patience to be disabled. If you are going to survive you've got to learn to let the small things go. Further, you've got to be able to recognize what's small stuff. This is both the blessing and the curse of disability. Personal growth is forced on you - grow or stew in bitterness and anger. There is no other choice. It's a choice that I think might just be good for everyone, but the non-disabled sometimes seem to be able to step over the need to develop a sense of proportion.

Yeah, I'm leading up to something. I went into the liquor store tonight to pick up some beer. It was a tough go. They were restocking one part of the store and redesigning another. My normal route was blocked with boxes of wine, carrier carts full of vodka, step stools for climbing high. I had to take a breath and then begin to scout a passageway. It was quite convoluted and at times I had to go in the opposite direction so that I could get to a pathway leading back.

I get to the beer section and pick up some beer loading it into my carrier bag. Once done it was full and I was carrying it while driving back. Again, making my way labouriously thorough the store. Now, here's the thing. Big deal. I had to thread my way through the store to get where I wanted. At least I got to see sections that I never look at. Some of the bottles were worth the trip. Big deal that it took me longer. Big deal that I had to ask, once, for something to be moved. Big deal. In the great scheme of things, it doesn't matter.

But on the way back a woman was standing trying to select a wine. My bag was heavy and balanced precariously on my belly. It truly was a beer belly at that moment. Anyways, I used my sweeter than honey voice to say, 'Would you mind letting me scoot behind you?' Well, you'd think I'd stuck a cold beer up her ass! She harrumphed and made a big deal out of having to move. It may have taken her 4 seconds to move and let me pass but it was a big deal.

Can you imagine what it would have done to her if she had to thread her way through the store, my God she would have needed therapy. A small thing upset her. I can't imagine her coping with a cold let alone a life in a wheelchair.

Big stuff - over come it.

Little stuff - let it go.

Now if I could embroider, I'd make a pillow.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dignity Lost, Dignity Gained

He was angry.

He was assertive.

He was entirely appropriate.

Yet he was dismissed.

Yesterday we were having a slow day. Just back from a week on the road, we weren't up to much. We headed out to spend an hour or so at the museum and then stopped for lunch. We were in the line up behind a couple with two children who were, themselves, behind a fellow, about thirty, with Down Syndrome. The man with Down Syndrome was carefully counting out the money for the cashier when one of the kids, impatient with the wait, called him a 'retard'.

His face flushed.

He gritted his teeth.

My heart stopped.

He gave the money to the cashier and waited for the change. She looked mortified. The parents stood there, their silence approved of their child's statement. They were, like their children in an HURRY FOR GOD SAKE. After the change had been carefully tucked away in his wallet he turned to the child who had called him a name. I could see him working up the will to say something. Then he did.

'I don't like to be called names. That is a very bad word. You shouldn't call people names like that.'

They ignored him.

Simply ignored him.

He picked up his tray and went on his way, walking with as much dignity as he could muster. After he was gone the mother turned to me, sitting in my wheelchair with a look of either disgust or disapproval on my face - they look similar. She said, defensively, 'He doesn't understand, it doesn't mean anything.'

I simply said, 'Trouble is, you won't admit that it does.'

She tried to say something more and I simply put up my hand signalling her to stop, I had no desire to have this conversation. They paid and left. Walking with as much dignity as they could muster.

Which wasn't much.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dave, The Pusher

Every now and then I find a really good floor.

I never noticed floors before disability. Oh, I guess I did in kind of an oblique sense - they were there, I walked on them. But I didn't notice their colour, their texture, the hardness of the wood, the softness of the carpet. I know that in the north they have twenty words for snow, well, we wheelchair users could have an equal number of words for describing a floor.

For the uninitiated, the type of floor affects the 'roll-ability' of the wheelchair. Carpets typically make pushing harder, though there are some carpets that have less 'stickiness' than others. Wood is good, some linoleums are awesome, some are awful. Floors don't seem to be taken into consideration regarding accessibility. They should be. For some reason accessible rooms are almost always down long hallways, thick plush carpet that is aimed a welcoming weary travellers makes my arms and shoulders scream in pain.

So a good floor is incredible. And I've been on some good floors. The floor in the Imperial War Museum in Manchester, that's a good floor. Although, it has a slope to it so it's really good one way, not so good coming back. The floor in my office is a good floor, but it's hard to say because with the placement of doors I can grab and hurl myself along quickly. Anyways, I know floors.

On our way home from Butler on Friday, we stopped at a Wegman's in Erie. We wanted to pick up a few groceries to take home and we wanted a brief 'get out of the car' respite. Joe rolled me up the slight incline and then headed to the bathroom, Joe knows bathrooms up and down the American Interstate system. As he went I told him I'd go and check out the hot soups with an eye to having dinner. I gave one push and I flew. This was a floor! A really good floor! It was a floor that was worthy of an exclamation mark!!

By the time Joe came back I'd scoped out the soups, the salad bar and found the tofu in garlic sauce. I was having a great time. We went and found what we wanted. Looked around the 'seasonal' aisle - my favourite in any store. And then headed to the cash. Joe took the bags to check in and I said, 'I'll meet you at the door, I want to push around a bit.' Joe remarked that we were along way from the door. I remarked, 'Not on this floor we aren't.'

And off I went. The store wasn't as crowded as we expected it to be, being a Friday and all, so I was able to get up a head of steam. I was going very quickly when I saw that I'd have to turn to avoid a display and be oriented correctly for the exit door. Instead of slowing I gave a few more hard pushes and then grabbed my left wheel to occasion a right turn. I turned sharply.

I noticed a little boy watching me as his mother was picking up produce. I heard him say to his mother as they walked away.

'Can I have a wheelchair when I grow up mom?'

I grinned and headed out the door and down to the car.

Gotta love a good floor.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Double Dare

If I could, I would dare them too look in her eyes. There is hurt there. Deep, deep hurt. I would challenge them to look deep in those eyes, oh trust me, I would if I could.

She is reaching out from behind others. Her staff has stopped to speak to me, thank me for my lecture. I had just spoken about the teasing and bullying of people with disabilities. About the pain that that damn word 'ret@rd' causes. About the need for people with disabilities to have skills to understand teasing and the need for us all to rise in protest at the use of hateful words used with the intention of hurt.

Her hand comes towards me tentatively. Like she's reached out before and been rejected. Like she expected her greeting to be turned away. Like hurt was always a possibility in every interaction, at any time.

Oh I dare them. Those teenagers who fling the word 'ret@rd' at each other. Who justify themselves by saying that it doesn't mean anything. I dare them to look in her eyes and tell her that their words don't slap her hard across the face. I dare those disgusting cowards to stand in front of her and excuse their words as meaningless. Oh. Man. I dare them.

I take her hand and the touch gives her courage. She pulls closer to me. She wants to speak. Her voice is soft. It is the voice of someone too often told to be quiet. It is the voice of someone seldom sought for opinion. It is the voice of someone with experience and wisdom but without trust in herself. "I get called that word all the time." She can't even say the word. And her eyes. Oh, her eyes. They fill to the brim with tears. But tears do not fall.

Oh I dare them. Those comedians who use the word 'ret@rd' to full effect. To make themselves a rebel. To make themselves bad boys, bad girls. Oh look at me, I defy political correctness. Oh look at me, I'm SO outrageous. Yeah, they find themselves funny. They justify what they do by saying that you can't censor art. I dare those disgusting cowards to hear the pain in her voice. I dare them to look in her eyes and explain how abuse is art. I dare them to tell a 'ret@rd' joke to her, even in her presence. Cowards. Liars. Bigots. Oh. Man. I dare them.

My heart is in my throat. I tell her that I know that words hurt. That I hope that she learned some new ways of thinking today. That I hope that one day that word will no longer be said. That one day she will be safe from the word that is like a heart seeking missile .. words that aim and penetrate and explode self esteem. She says simply, 'I never want to hear it again.'

Oh I dare them. Those who casually use words of hate. Who think that no one hears them when they utter hateful words. Those who believe that no one around them has a child with a disability, no one around them has a friend with a disability, and of course, no one around them has a disability. Disgusting ignorant jerks. Words. Hurt. Children of three know this. I dare them. I dare them to see her eyes. I dare them to see how she walks. Carefully, as if each step could bring disaster. As if there is risk everywhere. As if she, while she lives the life she lives in the body she has, is never safe.

I dare them to realize that her hurt is their handiwork.

I dare them to take even one single step in her shoes.

I. Dare. Them.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Hand Went Up


The mighty can fall in the face of a simple question

Years ago,I was at a conference giving a session and then tromped off, like everyone else, excitedly to hear the keynote speaker. He was and still is a very famous guy and has accomplished much. His talk was brilliant, funny, insightful. He had to stop to absorb round after round of applause. As it happened he finished maybe 5 or 6 minutes early. The MC said, 'Ah we have time for one maybe two questions.' There was that horrible pause as no one put there hand up. Then one fellow, a guy in a wheelchair called, 'here' ... 'here'. He'd had his hand up but not been seen. After acknowledgment he asked, 'You've achieved wonderful things for you, and that's good. But can you name something that you personally have done to make the world better, easier for people with disabilities. Something you did, not your organization, not your friends, you ... what have you done?'

The speaker was stopped. There was a long pause and finally the MC said, 'Well, we need to move along, with the day's agenda.' The whole conference changed. I said to Joe that I never want to get caught like that, ever. I always want to be doing something in the 'now' that I can report on if asked, if challenged.

Then yesterday in Camp Hill in PA, I was introduced with a wonderfully kind introduction and I didn't even notice that it was an introduction that, atypically, did not mention what I did or what I have achieved. I'm OK with that, the introduction was less formal and more fun. But when it came time for questions, a hand went up at the back, I called for the question. A man with a disability stood up. His question, 'What do you do? How do you help people?'

I understood right then the paralysis that hit that speaker years ago. I froze for a second. Then I gave an answer and half way through the answer, I realized I was using the language of lecture, the non-disabled people would understand, not him. Who was I justifying myself to. So at the end, I acknowledged my mistake. 'I said that in too many words, to be clear, I help people to be safe, I help people to have good relationships and I help people to feel good about themselves.' He nodded and said thanks.

I took a deep breath.

Two different conferences set apart by years. In both, people with disability called the speaker to account. That voice, the authentic voice of someone with a disability, that's the voice that asks the ultimate question of all of us who say we serve ... what have you done ....

Thursday, June 10, 2010

So ...?

I was sitting out by the car guarding the luggage that had yet to be loaded into the trunk. Joe was up getting more luggage and I was sitting like a guard dog ensuring that all was safe. We were in the parking lot just by the building. The day, sunny and warm. I watched as a fellow drove a van into the parking lot and then managed to back it into a fairly small parking space. I think parking should be an Olympic sport and if it was, he would have got at least into the final round.

He got out and nodded to me as he walked by to the machine to get a parking permit for the van. He was behind me and I could hear him as he put the coin into the machine. I could also hear the unmistakable sound of the coin dropping right through and into the change dispenser. He uttered a mild curse and headed back to his car. He stopped and said, 'Would you happen to have a toonie? The machine doesn't like the one I used.' I said, 'It can be temperamental. I don't think I have change but let me check.' I pulled my wallet out and all I had was a nickel. You can't park for seven seconds in that lot for a nickel. He said, 'That's OK, I'll check the van.' I said, 'Good luck.'

He came back from his van holding up a toonie for me to see. He walked by and then dropped the coin in the machine. This time it worked and the permit was printed out. On his way by he punched me in the shoulder and said, 'Hey thanks for trying to get me change.' I said, 'No problem.'

That's it.

That's all that happened.

Right now you are thinking, 'And so? Why is this on a disability blog?'

Well, it's here because it's just such a normal, everyday interaction. An interaction between two ordinary people going about an ordinary day. Nothing exceptional. Nothing 'special'. I can't tell you how rare it is to have just a simple interaction that isn't tinged with something quite intangible but also something quite prominent that is related to the fact that I am sitting, others are standing. Disabled people ... I need to be careful here, I don't speak for all ... this disabled person doesn't want special. I want to take a pair of scissors and cut the extra off the ordinary and then just move on.

It was nice. Refreshing. To meet someone with the capacity to interact beyond difference, beyond extraordinary ... and into the land of everyday, typical, how ya doing bud, ordinary.

I want more.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Why They Call it a Joy Stick

I'd had a particularly dark moment. I was coming into the elevator on my way home, I was fighting tears, things seemed very bleak. The door closed behind me and even though Joe couldn't see my face he could tell how I was feeling. Although we both know that the elevators all have cameras recording everything that happens behind closed doors, he reached down and took hold of my hand.

This is a nice gesture.

It was supposed to be.

There was a problem.

My hand was resting on the joystick controller of my power wheelchair. It is very, very sensitive to movement. The slight weight of Joe's hand pressed my hand down on the control and my chair leapt into action and I crashed into the wall in front of me. Joe was startled but instead of letting go, which would have been nice, he pulled his hand back and I careened back into the door behind me. This caused him to shout and pressed my hand again. Again I shot back into the wall in front of me.

This all happened so fast and I was so startled that I couldn't yell, 'Let go of my hand!' But I gathered my wits which had been shaken, not stirred, and yelled 'Let go for God's sake.' Joe dropped my hand and my chair came to rest. Joe fell back against the wall laughing and when the door opened there were two people waiting to get on. They had to wait as I could no longer drive as I was rocking back and forth with laughter.

Finally I got off the elevator and then stopped to wipe new, fresh, tears. Even though we were still in the hallway, I felt the sun was shining again.

Darkness, though it seems impenetrable, though it seems like it has full control, is extremely fragile. A giggle can crack it, a laugh can blast it away. I need to remember that humour is a powerful, powerful tool. Humour is a wonderful, wonderful gift.

There has been sunshine every day since.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Couple of Blog Announcements

It's been very odd not blogging over the last few days. I've both enjoyed the little break and missed the routine of writing at the same time. This was an important time for me to be away, however, and it was the right decision. I would not have been in the frame of mind necessary to write. I would have written things too wildly personal to be appropriate for public consumption - boundaries are a things of beauty. But I found I lived each day with slightly less intensity and much less observation and introspection. And, I'm ready to go back to being a regular poster. Starting tomorrow, Rolling Around in My Head will be back in business.

Too, I wanted to remind other bloggers that I will be hosting this months Disability Blog Carnival and the topic is Pride. The goal is to have others submit the blog post they are most proud of, not the one that got the most comments or notice, but the one they feel best expressed something about the disability experience. I need the posts by the end of next week so that I can put something together by the end of the month, the 27th to be exact.

See you tomorrow with a regular blog post.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Blatent Self Promotion and a Blog Announcement

I'm going to be doing two series of trainings, one on Behaviour and one on Sexuality, up in the Peterborough area this summer. I wanted to let readers from Ontario know so that those who want to register can do so. Go ahead and call Patty Barnes to get more information or to register.

Note to Readers: Joe and I have a very busy couple of weeks ahead of us with lots to accomplish. My posting here may be sporadic or may even stop for a few days. I've been writing this blog for a long time and I think we could all use a few days break.

For The First Time in The Peterborough Area!!!


Sex, Sexuality and Sex Education

The issue of sexuality of people with disabilities still brings confusion, disagreement and concerns. This four day course will bring clarity to the issue by dealing with myths and misconceptions and providing concrete tips and strategies for assisting people with disabilities. A fast and fun four days that is perfect for front line staff who are working directly with people with disabilities who have questions or concerns regarding sexuality. Perfect for those needing information. Perfect for those wanting to develop their skills. Perfect for those who want to feel more comfortable with those in their care.

Instructor: Dave Hingsburger

The Dates:

July 22: Myths and Misconceptions

July 23: Healthy Sexuality

July 28: Preventing Victimization

July 29: Sex Education

The Cost:

$325 per person

The Location:

Comfort Inn and Suites - Peterborough
1209 Lansdowne St. W.

Register by calling or emailing Patty Barnes

705.728.9143 x0
For The First Time in The Peterborough Area!!!




Problem behaviour can drain staff energy and destroy the moral of a team. This four day seminar is aimed at giving front line staff new understanding of problem behaviour. The workshop is practical, fun, and inspiring. It aims at teaching tools and techniques to understand and deal with behaviour that can be confusing and frightening. This is our eighth year of running the institution and the first year we have located the series in the Peterborough area. Perfect training for staff who work with individuals with problem behaviour! Perfect training for staff who wish to increase skills and capacity to serve a broad range of individuals! Perfect for staff who simply need a few new ideas!

Instructed by: Dave Hingsburger

The Dates:

July 8th: Communication

July 9th: Understanding Problem Behaviour

July 15th: Developing Positive Strategies

July 16th: Putting it All Together

The Cost:

$325 per person

The Location:

Comfort Hotel and Suites - Peterborough
1209 Lansdowne St. W.

Register Today by calling

Patty Barnes 705-728-9143 x0

or email at

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Tying Up Loose Ends

Several people have asked me to fill them in on what happened, sometimes I don't follow up on blog posts and they wanted all the scoop, ok, well, you asked ...

Feces Happens:

I got the weirdest letter from the 'poop people' and they told me that my 'Fecal Occult' test was negative. I have to admit that ... um ... I had no idea that the Occult was involved in the process - although I'm not surprised. I mean witches cook with 'eye of newt' why not 'poo of dave'? Anyways the letter told me that my poo was negative/normal. Then they went on for several paragraphs telling me about everything that could go wrong with poo and asked me to see the doctor if ... like ... my poo starts talking or whatever.

So, negative.

Shit Happens:

The hotel that gave away my accessible room and I came to an agreement. After much too-ing and fro-ing with phone calls I spoke to a really nice guy there. He totally understood the issue and outlined how they could assure that it wouldn't happen to me or any other disabled person. I was wondering how come he so clearly got it when others didn't when he disclosed that he was the parent of a child with a disability and knows the importance of accessibility. I stayed there again on the way home with no incident. I really think it's all going to be ok.

So, positive.

I guess that's yin and yang ... and now you are all, disturbingly, up to date.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Lolly Pop

Years ago I made a mistake. This was not an unusual occurrence. I had worked for a particularly long time with a young fellow who had a fairly serious problem with temper. His mother and I met weekly as I reviewed how the behaviour approach was going and made plans for teaching her son some new skills. He did well, needing simply consistency and a bit of reinforcement. I got to enjoy the meetings and really connected with both mother and child. When my involvement came to an end I had a 'termination meeting' with both. The little boy had bought me a little gift, something very small, a little figurine of a dog. It couldn't have cost more than five dollars.

He gave it to me with a sense of real drama, very proud of having a gift to give. I looked at it and thanked him for the gift. Then I explained how I couldn't take a gift as it was inappropriate of me to accept such an offering. He pressed me to take it because he had picked it out knowing that I liked dogs. I quietly but firmly let him know that I couldn't take his gift. I left feeling mother's disapproving gaze on my back.

Years later I would be working with people with disabilities who are lonely. People who want relationships. People who lack the skills necessary to form relationships - people who had learned about taking not about giving, people who had learned to consider themselves and not others, people who had systematically been trained to be selfish in their approach to human relationships. I remembered, then, a little boy who tried to give and who had his gift turned down. It was a mistake I really regretted.

But it wasn't one I made twice.

Yesterday morning we were joined for breakfast at the hotel by Mike and his family. The evening before we had given Ruby and Sadie, the kids, a few presents that we had picked up on the road. Ruby loves presents, of course, and her enjoyment of our small gifts was reward enough for having bought them. She came to breakfast carrying a large pink purse that she had insisted on bringing. Her mom and dad aren't sure where she got it but she loves that purse.

As we were all talking, Ruby had finished her cereal. She slid off her chair and opened her purse and fished inside it. Then her hands full she came over and stacked three pennies by my plate followed by a lollipop. Quietly she went over to Joe's plate and, again, stacked three pennies and layed a lollipop. Once done, she went back to her seat and climbed back up grinning widely.

Conversation done, I picked up my three pennies and the lollipop and thanked Ruby. Her mother and father didn't realize that she had gone into her stash of candy to get us these treats. She beamed as we thanked her and saw us each pocket three pennies and a lollipop.

We may have left with six cents more than we came with - but Ruby left richer.

You live.

You learn.