I hesitate to mention where Joe and I went on Saturday morning. Even though Joe put up mild protest, we went to see Andre Rieu's 25th Anniversary Concert playing on our local cinema screen. I know that Mr. Rieu is loved or hated by fans and critics respectively but I've been looking for fun ways to introduce classical music to the kids and I thought he might be a way in - I wanted to see for myself. So, off we went. But this post isn't about the concert, though I want to mention it a bit later on.
We got to the theatre, presented our printed at home tickets and were instructed to go up the ramp and to the right. The ramp in question is a very long one, I was in my power chair and headed over to it. On the ramp were two girls in their late teens. They were standing, about midway up the ramp, talking, one showing the other something on a cell phone. They glanced up and saw me heading towards the ramp. I got to the bottom thinking that they'd just head up the ramp. But no, they stayed put, alternately looking at the phone and me.
I said, "Would you mind letting me pass?" I kept my tone light, as I always do in these cases, but inside I was bothered. Why did I have to ask?
They were immediate.
"Of course," they said, smiling, and rushed up the ramp where they waited expecting the "Thank you" that I gave as I passed them.
Again, why did I have to ask?
I have some ideas but the one that I keep coming back to is that they wanted me to ask so they could grant me the request. That in giving me what I asked, they were doing something nice. That by my asking, I put myself in their power, and in their actions they could demonstrate their generosity. That they could earn gratitude, and maybe a jewel in their heavenly crown, by being 'nice' to the 'poor man in the wheelchair.'
I find myself asking and being granted a lot.
On the trip to Chicago with several people with intellectual disabilities I noticed that they asked me for permission to do a lot of things. I caught myself, very early, giving permission - then stopped myself. The power to give permission, to grant a request is an inviting one - it says good things about me, it gives me a way to demonstrate my permissiveness. But refusing to be in the role of permission giver, I changed the dynamic, for myself, for those I was travelling with.
I know this isn't directly comparable but it sort of is ... in a sort of way.
The two girls saw me.
They knew what I needed.
But they wanted me to ask for it.
And they wanted to give it to me.
This is a dynamic that I think happens a lot more than people want to admit. And I know that many readers won't agree with my thoughts about it.
But I was seen.
And everything happened after that.
On another, completely unrelated note. I quite enjoyed the performance, I'm not the classical music buff that Joe is - I could feel him wincing once or twice - but I decided that I'm going to get a couple of Mr. Rieu's DVD's for the girls. I liked how the concert showed people enjoying and reacting to the music. I want the girls to know that music isn't just for listening.I also liked the fact that as they panned the crowd I could see people with disabilities there. One fellow, a wheelchair user, was boogying with his wife, another old duffer in a wheelchair was stamping and rocking to the music. I liked the fact that they were actively participating in the event, not passively watching it. I liked that they were SEEN to be living and loving and fully alive.
So, have at me.
Agree or disagree - was the moment on the ramp about power and about gifting access or was it just a meaningless thoughtless moment.
I vote power.