Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Happy Happenstance

Often I am the only person with a disability in a room. Actually, change that 'often' to 'almost always.' But yesterday, by chance, at the book table that I was staffing as Joe was checking out of the hotel, two of the audience members who were also wheelchair users came up to the table. We fell into a kind of easy chat with one another. We shared experiences, made jokes that maybe only we would get, and generally shot the breeze. It wasn't for long, but I soaked up every minute of it. Even though I was in a crowded room, and even though the people in that room were almost universally nice, those few minutes mattered.

I was there talking about community connections ... and ironically, for me, that's what really happened during that short, unscripted and unscheduled meeting. There are times when it just feels good to talk with those who have sat where I have sat, who have rolled where I have rolled. There is a degree of commonality that crosses borders, cultures and even language some times.

Joe and I went to a movie theater in one of the suburbs of Toronto one time and there was a young woman who was tasked to take tickets at the door. She was painfully shy, but she also clearly liked her job. She would rip the ticket, give it back and quietly announce the theatre number. When I handed her my ticket she noticed my wheels, she looked primarily at the floor, her gaze came right up to my fact, something she'd not done with any of the others ahead of me, she smiled and softly said, 'Thanks for coming.' I said it's really nice to see you here. I meant what I said, it wasn't a pat greeting, it was a statement of loss of aloneness. I knew she understood.

I've mentioned this a couple of times in conversation with those who do not have disabilities and some have become offended. They say that this need of mine to occasionally chat with and be with other wheelchair users demonstrates a weakness in me. That I should be completely happy living the privileged world of complete inclusion. I ask, How can inclusion mean exclusion ... if all means all wouldn't it be natural that I would run into and be able to communicate with others similar to me.

I want inclusion and but I will fight any form on inclusion that excludes others.

You see, I still think, all means all ... and for all the right reasons.


Anonymous said...

I agree Dave....all does mean all. Recently, in a community choir, I had the unexpected experience of not being allowed to sing as a select view had been chosen An insignificant event perhaps, but not a community one. As for often being the only person in a room with a disability...this is where I disagree with you Dave. Perhaps the only wheelchair user in the room. have a good day!

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness for support groups - where everyone understands without being told.

Then the conversation can switch to OTHER things, and when it is about our disability, it can be discussed without first educating anyone.

It is so exhausting sometimes to always be the one who is different. It is exhausting that after 23 years, many of my friends and family still don't understand what I live with.

Not complaining - just saying.


Anonymous said...

I feel that sometimes when I unexpected meet up with a gay or lesbian person. There is that sense of "loss of aloneness" that you talk about. It's not like I don't want to live in a world of diversity. It's that sometimes it's nice to be part of "us" instead of me alone as "them". Doesn't mean I don't like straight people. Doesn't even mean I like all gay and lesbian people. It just means there is a common short hand and that feels easy.

Rachel in Idaho said...

Inclusion doesn't mean denial!

There should not be two worlds, the "disabled world" and the "normal world" - there should be one world. Inclusion should not mean they put up with us in the "normal" world, but in return we have to pretend to be "normal" for them. And that is what I get from "Why do you need to talk to THEM? You wanted to be included with US and now you are!" But the actual real world includes all of us, and it can be wonderful to run into others of our "tribe" so to speak on occasion.

I bet these same people go on outings with just the girls or the guys sometimes, or similar things. But that's different, of course.

Anonymous said...

I hope I didn't come across as mean-spirited. I find it very supportive when I come across someone with psoriatic's hard to find others who know what you're going through. have a good day Dave

Laurel said...

Rachel, too true--I am pretty mainstream (white, not disabled) but there are still times I feel relieved to enter a room of "my people"... sometimes that could be women, sometimes it could be nerds, sometimes it's coming home to my family, occasionally something else. It is exhausting to constantly try to adjust to a majority group that experiences the world in a very different way. I can never know what it's like to be disabled (unless I become disabled myself) but I can relate to this feeling for sure.