She looked tiny. She had beautiful long brown hair which framed a pretty little face. Like many with Down Syndrome, she appeared younger than she was. I met her at the end of a day wherein I had done a full days lecture on Bullying and Teasing. This was not a day wherein half was devoted to training specifically for people with disabilities and half for staff. This was a full day staff event wherein people with disabilities were also invited to attend. I had seen her sitting watching me.
The stories in this lecture aren't easy to tell and they are even harder to hear. I see parents in my audience wince, I see staff grow angry, I see people with disabilities listening hard to what I'm saying. She was one of those who sat listening, learning and considering. At the end of the day she came to speak with me. Her staff, a kind woman, gave her the time and space to speak. When she did, it was in a small voice.
'I got teased a lot too.'
'All the time.'
'It hurt me.'
I've left out anything that I said in response because this isn't my story, it's hers. She came forward because she wanted to tell me that teasing hurts, she knows that because she's felt it. She came forward, in her way, not to inform me but to encourage me. Her pain, the memory of her pain, was her gift to me. It was her way of saying 'keep it up' ... 'keep going' ... 'stay strong'.
And I promise her here and now.
And I know that other's will.
Annie gave me a plan.
I'm going to try, with the help of others, to change Annie's world.
I may fail, but I'd rather try and fail, than to sit back and think - there's nothing to be done.