Friday, March 04, 2011

One Moment in Time

She stood, shyly, in front of me. A quiet, shy woman, unused to being the center of attention. She had come up to do a role play during a workshop for people with disabilities. I was instructing her that when her time came in the role play she was to raise one of her hands up, classroom style. She looked a bit confused. I reached out and pointed to her right hand saying that she could put that one up in the air.



A tiny voice, one not used to speaking up, said, 'no'.

Then in a tiny act of assertion she pointed to the other hand. This was the one that she would choose to use.

I felt honoured.

Let me count the reasons why:

She felt safe with me to say 'no'.

She knew she could make her own choice and it would be respected.

She understood that her decision would rule out my request.

I have come to understand that my character is attested to, not by what I do, but what people feel free to do around me. I have come to understand that little moments of trust are what life is all about. I have come to realize that we need to pause and acknowledge when those, who have been dismissed by others, take the risk to 'be' who they are, to 'live' outside their fear, to 'speak' personal choices. These are moments of honour. Deep honour.

It passed by in a second.

It still reverberates, like the distant chime from freedom's bell, within my heart.


Belinda said...

Thank God for the courage to say "no," and for a place of safety to practice it. May her voice increase in courage and strength and may she flex it like a muscle until it responds as naturally as breathing.

coffeetalk said...

"I have come to understand that my character is attested to, not by what I do, but what people feel free to do around me." Again thank you for something to think about.

Beth said...

I'm a little frustrated knowing that I probably couldn't have said like that lady even if I did prefer the other arm. It'd be because I couldn't understand or else not recognize there was another option or that I had a choice. I know it's because of brain damage, but skills I've yet to get back can be frustrating. My big accomplishment (that's related) is that I can nearly always say "Stop!" if something is too much and/or I need time to think. That's very good. I am improving (slowly) at both deciding and seeing unsaid options, but I still tend to take suggestion-in-statement-form as being statement-of-fact (or How Things Will Be), so that can make this sort of thing difficult. I hope that I can someday be more able (on a regular basis) to choose an unsaid alternative like this lady did, but I know I'm rarely able to do that now and I also know that it's not usually because I feel uncomfortable but rather is usually because my brain is messed up. I know I'm no less strong; I can say "STOP!" when I need to. :-)
In the rare times I can do what the woman did, it's true that sometimes I won't because I don't think the person will listen or respect my decision. Especially since I can do that so rarely and because it's so hard for me to do, I don't want to give my chrysanthemums to people that have dumped them on the roadside before, wilting me like Elisa in Steinbeck's story. Even when I can, I won't with some people unless the issue is really important to me else the risk isn't worth it. Probably it does speak well of you in that which hand likely wasn't a huge deal. Definitely something I hope I get better at, but stop is still good.

Nan said...

Beth: Stop is very good indeed!Thank you.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I love this post - that this woman had the strength to say no even in a tiny voice and that you had the sensitivity to recognize that this indicated her feeling safe to say no in your presence - that you would respect her no. I wonder in services how many times that little no is not seen as a positive sign of trust but as "non-compliance" and "refusal to co-operate" or (and this one especially makes me boil over) "behaviours".

May her no get strong and loud and clear enough so that her yes indicates true consent.


Suelle said...

"I have come to understand that my character is attested to, not by what I do, but what people feel free to do around me."
I agree coffeetalk, something great to think about.
I hope you don't mind, Dave, but I added the above to my favorite quotes on my blog! Thanks!