I say "Hello" or "Good Morning" to everyone who gets on the bus with me in the morning, or to those who are already on the bus when I get on. I don't say this to alert you to the fact that I am an extraordinarily warm and welcoming person - I'm more shy than welcoming by far. But, I believe in a certain kind of civility and have signed the social contract that asks all of us to behave as if we were part of a community that cares. This makes Joe, who is also a signatory, and I seem very odd to some of the people in the apartment building we live in, some who actively avoid riding in the elevator with us because they hate being in a small room with two people who say "Hello" or "How are you?" We are socially outcast for being socially ept.
But onwards to the story.
I greet people on the bus. Most often people greet me back and we ride in silence. Sometimes people take the greeting as an invitation to talk and we chat a bit. Nothing extraordinary comes of civility other than a continuance of civility but that's enough for me. Some, like my elevator riding fellow cave dwellers, seem to fear that saying hello back would the the first step towards sex, or dinner out, or, god forbid, friendship and look pointedly away. I'm good with that, I've done my duty and I'm equally good at sitting silently looking out the window or playing 'Word Mole' on my phone. But most, smile, or nod, or say hello back and that's the end of that.
But some mornings, others are on the bus or are brought on the bus, people with more significant disabilities who don't communicate in the traditional way. I greet them too. Sometimes I'm greeted back with a look, with a smile or with a little tiny wave. Sometimes, maybe even most times, there is no observable response. Most often if a response comes its from a staff or someone assisting the person greeted. "She can't talk." "He can't hear you." "She's too low functioning to understand." "He's noncommunitive." Most often I'm told, "You don't have to do that, she doesn't understand (he can't answer back)." I imagine that the support worker feels like they are doing a favour, explaining away the silence that greets my "Good Morning."
But I wonder why they feel the need to speak at all. I greeted them too, usually acknowledge, and now they are trying to brush away my greeting to the person they support. I wonder what I am being told. Firstly, I can see that the individuals have complex disabilities. I wonder how the individual feels being summed up to a stranger with words that limit. I wonder if anyone ever thinks that maybe even if the person can't do what is said they can't do that maybe they can be socially more than someone who "doesn't." The existence of a disability, even a significant one doesn't make one disappear off a bus, doesn't cut one out of a social fabric. The expectation of welcome that comes with humanity still exists. Staff taking scissors and attempting to cut the meagre strings of a greeting by a stranger might leave the person completely socially adrift. I mean, it's just "Hello."
I say "Hello" or "Good Morning" to everyone on the bus.
Because in my world. All means all.