Everyone wants affirmation.
She had been an active and vital part of the workshop on bullying and teasing. With wild abandon she gave herself to the experience, she did role plays, encouraged others, was gracious with sharing time and never once, despite enthusiasm, did she hog the spotlight. She was just as happy when someone else succeeded as when she did. I liked her. On her way out of the workshop I shook her hand and told her that I had loved teaching her, that she was a real addition to the class and that she had done well. She beamed back at me asking, 'Really?' I said, and meant, 'Really.'
And because I liked her my failure to stop her hurt bothers me even more.
I come to you all with a question. There are times I ask myself 'What Would Readers Do?' And here I am asking. First the situation, then, the question:
I am midway through a presentation to staff on staying positive and staying the course. On break I chat with a few people and then I notice the woman with a disability from the morning session on Bullying heading towards me bringing along behind a reluctant looking staff. A young woman, a pretty woman, a woman who shouldn't yet be bitter and burned out - but who knows what lives others live. But regardless of mood or of circumstance, she was a caregiver in company with someone in care. It's a role more important than mood or whim. When they arrived the woman with a disability, looked first at her staff and then me and said, 'Tell her.'
The staff glanced at me, bored and irritated, but I said, gamely, 'She did incredibly well ...' and before I could continue the staff simply turned away and began speaking to someone sitting up at the front. She cut me off. That's rude. She diminished and demoralized and humiliated the woman with a disability. That's abusive. I saw hurt on her face so I continued talking to the woman's back, 'she contributed to the workshop and it was a better class because she was there. You are lucky to be working with her.' She never turned, never acknowledged the compliment to the woman she worked with. She walked away.
I was, through the whole thing, within touching distance of her. I could have reached out and touched her arm, I could have forcibly made her turn to me and listen, but I didn't. I was shocked. I was appalled. And I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to make it better. Afterwards as we drove away, I was angry at myself. I should have known what to do.
I don't know if I was showing discretion or cowardice. I don't know. I didn't know if my making an issue of it would make life harder for a woman who so needs affirmation. I didn't know if it would have made a difference at all. Maybe it would have made it better, perhaps worse. But I don't know.
What would you have done in my situation?
Help me know what to do next time.
Cause there will be a next time. There are those who work with people with disabilities who need working with themselves. There are those who think that the issue is disability when the issue is attitude. There are those who should be thinking of, maybe, either growing up or getting out.