Sunday, October 07, 2012

Thanksgiving: Beyond Bounty


It's Thanksgiving morning.

Immediately I'm thankful that, for once as I rarely do, I slept in.

We got back late last night from a week and a half on the road, as it was a holiday weekend, the border to a long time to cross and we kept seeing our arrival time as predicted by Ted, our GPS, get later and later and later. We finally parked in the parking lot of our apartment building a little before eleven o'clock. We'd been in the car for nearly eleven hours.

On our way home I thought, as I always do, about the trip. My recent travels, whether it be to consult or to train have been typified by something new. People, often my age, come to talk to me quite personally, to tell me that a training I did twenty years ago, or one of my books, or an article I wrote, had a profound effect on who they became as a service provider. These are always tremendously private moments and I can't even begin to express what they mean to me. On this trip I spoke with three people with disabilities who told me that hearing me speak, or attending on of my workshops helped them to think differently about themselves. One man told me that hearing me say that having a disability was just a different difference turned him from a man who was angry all the time into a man who wanted to make a difference. He told me that he had just registered in a leadership training course for self advocates and he had come to see me just to tell me. Joe, who gets little credit for what he does, and I both agreed afterwards that if our careers had just been for him, it was worth it.

I am thankful for the path I have trod and the opportunities that I have had.

I am thankful that people are now, as I am bald and grey, are coming to me and speaking to me about what I've done and the difference it's made.

But mostly I'm thankful that the young man, in whose shadow I walk didn't do what he had planned to do. That young man teased, bullied, harassed because he wasn't like other boys, managed to somehow find the courage and the will and the strength to get through day after day. Every morning was full of fear, every day a fresh humiliation. Gay. Different. Alone. I'm thankful too that that boy, always big, always fat, managed to get by. I remember the face of the taunting classmate, in gym, grabbing my chest so hard that his fingerprints left bruises on my 'man boobs' as all the others laughed. I remember his face, now, that boy. I remember his name. I remember that moment as being a moment where I decided that I couldn't do it any more. That I didn't want to do it any more. That there was no purpose to doing it any more.

I won't describe here, on Thanksgiving Sunday, the tortuous and pain filled evening that followed. Tears falling on to two hand prints on my chest. Falling our of anger and hate, not at him, of course not at him, but at me. The idea that it was my fault for being different was well ingrained in me. The idea that he had a right to hurt me. The idea that it was OK to slam me into lockers, OK to make pig sounds when I went by, was fully in place. No one blames the victim like the victim.

Perhaps it was the long ride, dark coming earlier, through the night. Perhaps it was the intimate conversations with others who were determined to tell me that I mattered. Perhaps it was the shock when 'then' runs into 'now' that had me thinking about Thanksgiving in a different kind of way. I normally am thankful for what I have, for being loved, for having a home, for my job and my friends. Things that I am profoundly thankful for on an ongoing and continuous basis. Thanksgiving is symbolised, almost always, by the cornucopia of plenty.

Yet, for me, today. I'm grateful that I lived past that evening of that day where ten fingerprint sized bruises were washed by my grief. I'm grateful that I put down, for the last time in my life, the idea of suicide and got up changed. It would be well over a month for those bruises to finally fade - on my chest. On the way home, in the dark, with the gentle sounds of praise for the life I lived still echoing in my heart, I checked. And, on my soul, they are gone.

 https://iamnotjustafatgirl.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/it-gets-better.jpg

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

oh goodness, no words. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave--I, too, was a fat, bullied teen who never questioned the right of my tormenters to mistreat me, including many adults in my life. I'm glad you made it through the torment, Dave, because I heard you speak long ago, must have been around 1985-ish, in Ellensburg, Washington, and it completely changed how I think about human services and how I conduct myself as a professional. Thank you, Dave, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and Joe.

Purpletta said...

Dave, I am wordy and could easily go on for paragraphs if not pages, but today I will not. I will say simply your writing, always, moves me. Your sharing so openly pulls from the shadows things for so many people, for me. Your acknowledgement of yourself as a gift to others, your life as one that has mattered at such a level of depth to so many people able to share their own gifts in life today, makes me grateful for who you are and who you have become, bruises faded. And for who we all are, each with varying levels of bruises, fading. I am one of many who has been changed by the work you do; your lectures and training materials have helped me have a perspective on life that I would not have had without your influence. Thank you for choosing to live, and for choosing not only to live but to have a life and to live life and share life... Happy Thanksgiving...
Purpletta

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Happy Thanksgiving to you and Joe!

What a moving post. I am one of the many people thankful that you woke up that morning and put aside thoughts of suicide. There are many many people in this world today who are better off because of you, who you are and the work you and Joe do. I am one of them - so happy to hear that those deep wounds have healed.

Many blessings to you both
Colleen

Jan said...

Dave Your post today moved me. I am one of those who has heard you speak many times and you have changed who I am and how I feel about those who let me help them in their daily lives. This Thanksgiving as I reflect on all I am thankful for in my life, you are part of that list. Without you my growth as a human being would not be as complete. Thank you Dave and keep challenging us all to become better.

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving Dave and Joe, And thank you for sharing those painful memories, I'm so glad you moved past those times, to help others. Like others have said, since I've been reading your blog, you have helped me grow as a person.

Let us pray and work for a time when bullying and abuse become unacceptable.

Sharon

Louise said...

Ouch.

Nan said...

and I am full of praise that you chose life and the living into the fullness of it, which meant sharing this pain, this (also) joy, this perception of the world, with us. PAX

Belinda said...

I am thankful for "you." Thankful for much else too, but finding it hard to imagine the loss if you had you believed the lie all those years ago.

Belinda said...

I am thankful for you and finding it hard to imagine the loss if you had believed the lie all those years ago.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful thing to be thankful for - that your life has changed/saved has affected so many, who in turn continue to serve and change others. What an amazing legacy. What a beautiful example. Sometimes we forget how our lives touch so many. (Probably why "It's a Wonderful Life" is my favorite movie!) A good goal is life is to leave everyone we meet, short or long term, better for meeting/knowing us. You and Joe had some beautiful affirmations this trip! Continual Thanksgiving!

Susan said...

Joy.

Rachel in Idaho said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and Joe. And is it just me or does it seem really early this year? Perhaps time is just speeding up on me. :)

Myrrien said...

Dave ... and Joe all I can say is thank you. Having heard you speak and met the wonderful Joe I can honestly say how much your integrity meant to me. Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving.

wendy said...

Dave,
I want to reach back to that boy you were and give him a hug and tell him "You're okay. They're mean." I know he'd never believe me if I told him how his life and work would one day make such a huge difference in the lives of people with development disabilities, their families and the staff who work with them.
I'm glad the bruises are gone from your soul.

Helena said...

No words to describe this entry - except maybe powerful, poignant, emotional, heart-clenching, hopeful, awesome. You are a gift.

Kris S. said...

Dave-WOW. So powerful. The world is a better place because you're part of it. I am glad beyond words you ARE a part of it.