I woke up in a hotel far from home. It took a second to remember where I was. A time zone away from home, a discombobulation away from routine, but morning here is like morning at home. Get up, get scrubbed, get dressed, get ready, get going ... those small duties pulled me into a sense of normalcy. We rode the elevator down to breakfast and ate eggs and drank tea looking out at a snow drift high enough to look back at us.
The day was spent lecturing on bullying and teasing to a mixed group of people. There were a lot of teachers, there were parents, providers, self advocates - a mixed group, all there to learn about how to respond to someone who is experiencing the social violence of teasing and bullying. At breaks I spoke to or took questions from a lot of different people. But even with the differences, there was a similar concern. We all wanted a safer world and we all wanted people with disabilities to be prepared to live in a world of intolerance, and by living in that world, change that world.
At one of the breaks a woman with a disability, sitting at the table in front of me said to someone at another table, 'I like what he said about that word, I hate that word, I have tried to stop that word all my life.' It was a moment of validation. She listened with intensity and I could see that the main thing she got from the workshop was simply confirmation that her feelings of hurt mattered and that people should be held responsible for using language that causes pain. It was enough for her.
I did see another man though. He looked at me with a quiet intensity throughout the talk. At the end he came up and in a surprising move, put his hand over mine. He said, softly, 'I am going to be a better dad because of today.'
This, I told him, was the nicest thing he could have said to me.
He was gone before I thought to tell him that his comment is going to make me better at my job and keep me focused on my message. I need to hear that what I do changes hearts, because a changed heart has the power to change lives. I get tired sometimes, waking up and not knowing where I am. It matters to me to hear that something I said will make a difference. It makes me want to get in the car and go do it again.
So tomorrow I will wake up in Moncton, I will wonder where I am and then I will get up and get on. And it will be easier, because someone stopped to tell me it mattered.