Yesterday was a pretty emotional day for me but I kept it together for most of the day. I mean, realize, that I was witnessing something pretty huge. After the first day of training, about training and about the curriculum, yesterday was about the various teams coming together to practice and then get up in front of us all and teach. People with disabilities are not immune to the nerves. You could feel tension crackling in the air as they gathered together in various parts of the hotel to practice and to giggle away nerves.
At one point I was rolling by a group and one of the teachers (a person with and intellectual disability) was saying to one of the helpers (a staff person), 'OK, if I forget the lines what I want you to do is to whisper the words to me.' He was fully in control and defining what kind of help he may need. She was listening and simply setting it up so that she could follow his instructions, his lead. All over the room that was happening. The teachers were outlining what they might need in the way of assistance.
They had seen that when Joe and I teach this together, we each have separate jobs. I am primarily the teacher, but I need Joe's assistance to remind me when I've missed something, to keep me on track, to make sure I notice who's hand is up and who is needing assistance. He plays a vital role, it's not as showy as mine, but it's a vital role. The helper is there for that reason - to make sure the teacher can focus on teaching without the worry of having to remember everything or to see everything.
So, that all took us up to lunch. Everyone ate with anticipation for what was coming next. They were going to have the experience of getting up and teaching the group. They knew, by then, that everyone wanted everyone to succeed. Of all the worries they had, they didn't have to worry about being negatively judged. We had managed that rare thing: a safe place for all to be in. In a day an a half we had transformed into something remarkable.
Then, we began.
I sat there and fought tears for nearly a full hour. I've been teaching this for years. I've been teaching staff to do this, but for the first time every, the words I'd written, the role plays I had imagined, were being set up and run by people with disabilities. I saw those who had a natural sense of humour bring the room into laughter. I saw those who had a wonderfully gentle touch when it came to engaging the group. I saw people holding on to the instruction manual and carefully getting the words out. I saw people on the edge of new creation.
We all create ourselves over the yeas, don't you agree? Time and circumstances are like little tiny chisels taken to our selves and our souls. Every now and then, though, something happens, something so big that even you hear the crack - know why they call it a broken heart, well, I'm sure it's because someone once actually heard theirs crack open. Well, I heard, the room heard, crack after crack as the situation, the circumstance, took hammer to self-doubt and as it fell away there shone confidence and there shone self assurance and, heaven be praised, there shone pride.
I witnessed change. Two days ago I realized that we were embarking on a new era in how we served people. Yesterday I saw something different. I saw the personal change that would lead us to system change. Yesterday I saw something powerful. I saw people taking hold of their own destiny. Yesterday I saw something moving. People with disabilities with a desire to teach people with disabilities about strength and about power and about pride.
Yesterday was quite the day.
As had been the day before.
I even heard, far back in the corner of my soul, a small, a tiny, hammer working away at a part of my soul and I know that is some way, as a result of that, I am about to be changed.