Monday, May 30, 2011

Trust: A Sadie Story

The 'a' in Dave was drawn out but the word was distinct. Then, quickly following that success was 'Oe'. Sadie, Ruby's little sister, had just said our names for the first time. It was an incredible feeling, like we were called into being with the breath that had formed the words. Sadie clapped her hands with excitement, there were two new words in her vocabulary. Other than 'ma ma' and 'da da' we were the first people she put names to ... that's a very, very, nice thing.

Sadie is very different from her sister. Ruby was born to interact with the world and the people in it. Sadie, watches the world and experiments with the people in it much more carefully. She does not seek out people and their approval very often and lets people in with great care. Even now, she comes to us very cautiously and spends very little time wanting to be held or touched in any way. We've had to learn to show her affection and caring in ways that she accepted. We both knew not to feel rebuffed by her distance, she's a cautious kid and in many ways that's a really good thing. We both knew that she would form attachment to us in her own way and her own time. This trip seemed to be the time. She sought Joe out to put on her shoes, something she hates, and sat quietly allowing him to help her. A mammoth act of trust. Later the same day, she sought me out to climb on and to play 'try to stick the soother in Dave's mouth' ... a game she found very, very, funny. It was terrific.

There is a difference between trust and compliance, there is also a difference between trust and necessity. This is something I understand both as a service provider and as a person with a disability. Because we provide service to a person with a disability does not mean that the family trusts us - we provide most often out of necessity rather than desire. Because a person with a disability answers a personal question does not mean that they trust us - many times people with disabilities engage in trusting behaviour, as separate from trust, because they've been taught to, not because they want to. These are different things.

Trust is earned.

Trust is never given freely.

Trust is at the foundation of both friendship and love.

I remember watching a documentary about gay relationships and they asked a young gay man his definition of 'love' ... he answered by saying that, to him, love was 'a combination of lust and trust'. I thought that was much more profound than it seemed at first. Indeed, I believe that he got at lot right in that answer. I too, believe, that more marriages are destroyed because, not because of a loss of the former, but because of a loss of the latter. It's a powerful thing trust.

I realized in the moment that Sadie reached up to play 'put the soother ...' with me, me Dave, me a person with a name, that it meant something bigger than any other interaction that had happened previously. Now I was not an anonymous person in her life, I'm a person with a name. A person who can now be held accountable for my actions. A person that can be called to task for any violation of trust, any purposeful hurt. Of course my desire is to always be worthy of trust, always be careful in my interactions. But now, I can be named. I can be held accountable.

Sadie reminded me, again, in a concrete way of the powerful role that care providers ... parental or rental, that people have in the lives of others. We are placed into their lives to provide a service that works best when trust is earned. I remember the first time I was assisting someone with dressing and they said, afterwards, 'Thanks, Dave' that I had been named. That I was in a relationship wherein my actions could be attached to my name, that my reputation was attached to my actions and that, ultimately, my reputation would be all I had at the end of days. I wonder how many 'moms' and how many 'dads,' who desperately wait for their baby to say their names, realize the implications that come with being named. I hope they all do. I hope we all do.

All Sadie had said was 'Dave', all she had done was reach out for me, and suddenly, the world changed.


theknapper said...

You've articulated some things about trust that I want to sit with and let deepen.( trust and compliance and trust and necessity)
How wonderful for you to notice Sadie's step in bldg connection. Very precious.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave,

your blog is always a favourite thing to read in the morning. I do not comment on every one of your blogs because sometimes my thoughts are either very complex about it or I just want to say how much I lie them.

But today I want to say something to either your blog abut Ruby and your blog about Sadie.

Rubys butterfly for Tessa reminded me of someone I really earn my life to. When I was feeling very sad and depressive three years ago, one of my friends told me, that Joshua Kadison was touring Germany. I liked his songs and we decided to go to his concert. Then I was invited to ZDF Fernsehgarten where he played the year after. His song ist called "Butterflies" and I think you might like it.
I try to put the link in here:

I think it is worth listening to

And then I can related to Sadie being careful whom she trusts. I spent a lot of my childhood in hospital because of my congenital heart defect and till today I hate being touched without a warning. Not because someone hurt me sexually but becaus in my childhood pain through touch took so much place.

I am still lurning to trust and whom to give my friendship to. But I definitly learned to say in a polite way if I dont want to be touched and I make it very clear to everyone.

So much for today. Thank you for alsways sharing your thoughts, ideas and wisdom.

Love for Tessa
Julia from Germany

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave,

sorry, I wrote this piece early in the morning and made some writing mistakes. Of course it should say:

...I just want to say how much I LIKE them.

Take care
Julia from Germany

Roia said...

First, thank you for sharing the photo of you with your nieces! It's a beautiful picture.

Second, I had a couple of thoughts as I read your post today. I work in an institution, and I'm always struck by the fact that a question parents who haven't seen their sons or daughters for a long time seem to ask us when they visit is: "has s/he learned to speak yet?" Perhaps it is that wish to be named (as you stated so nicely toward the end of your post.) and acknowledged.

I work as a music therapist, largely with people who don't use speech. But even though there isn't usually a moment when someone calls me "Roia," I notice that I always feel a distinct shift in the sessions when I become real to one of the folks I work with. It is usually accompanied by an increase in eye-contact or my client getting up to meet me when I come to ask if they'd like to have their music therapy session, or looking back and checking to make sure I'm following them through the door they just went through. It is indeed a profound (series of) moment(s). And sometimes it takes a lot of years for it to happen. Definitely worth the wait!

Susan said...

Delightful and thought provoking both.

I just figured out that I can put a link to my favourite posts of yours on my Facebook page. So I did. Well, I started, anyway. With this one...

Cheers from Thunder Bay in the rain!

Anonymous said...

I think the services I've worked in, service providers EXPECT that clients and there families trust us because of our position.
I think underpinning this is a view of clients and their families as DEPENDENTS to services, rather than the focus around which services form.
In the UK, the emergence and use of the term SERVICE USERS elides understanding and discussion of this.
As service providers, TRUST, as you say, can be earned, but it's not useful to demand, elicit or cajole to this end.
And certainly not helpful to assume we will be trusted.
I guess this is obvious when we work from a place of love. But I think I'm paid to work from a place of social control- reduce the social problems- that puts social order first and clients on the edge.

Belinda said...

I loved the photo. Just so perfect. And the post is so thought provoking in terms of the role we have in people's lives; people who are in the position of having to trust others when they are vulnerable--and that makes them even more vulnerable. It is a good thing to ponder how that feels.

And Julia from Germany--I wish I could write German as well as you write English--any time of day! :)

Dave Hingsburger said...

Julia, thanks for you comments, it's great to get to know you a little better as a person, it gives so much more understanding to your comments. I went and checked that sone by Kadison (who I didn't know) it's absolutley lovely.

Trust and touch are two things not talked about enough in the world of disability. They should be, they are so entwined and so misunderstood.

Jannalou said...

Something I refused to do, when I was working with autistic children, was require them to make eye contact. I would encourage them to look at my forehead, or my nose, or even my chin, when we first said hello to each other each day, but other than that I didn't ask them to look at me.

Funnily enough, I got more and better eye contact from the kids I worked with than anyone else who pushed them to do it.

I remember one time (I think I blogged about it) I was at the science centre with a preteen boy I was doing community access/respite with, and one of his former ABA therapists started talking to him. He was visibly uncomfortable, standing with his back to the wall, shifting from one foot to the other, and gazing at the floor. His former therapist told him frequently to look up at her as she was talking to him.

As soon as she left, he loosened up and went back to his regular self. And made fairly constant eye contact with me, to boot. I never once asked him to look at me, not even my forehead or my nose, in all of the years I took him out. Funny how he was able to look at me easily.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I randomly found your blog. I'm not even sure what I clicked to get here now... but I've spent an hour reading your posts, and I've been given a lot to think about already. I'm not disabled, or in any way in contact with disabled people. I'm a very average person, too wrapped up in my work and what I'm doing after work releases me. I often don't take time to think about things like trust, and how important names are, etc. I've never been terribly good at social interactions... and, now I don't remember what my point was. SO before I ramble any further... Thank you. Thank you for giving me something to think about.