Monday, March 04, 2013

I'm OK, I Have It On Good Authority

There are many kind of smiles.

Welcoming smiles.

Loving smiles.

Hopeful smiles.

Nostalgic smiles.

But there is also another smile. One that I've known since the first time I recognised another gay person at a conference, years ago when we would have been fired because of the backbeat of our hearts, we shared a smile that said, "I see you." It was a wonderful kind of sharing. It was nice to been seen, even by just one other. It was a loss of aloneness.

I had that smile today on the subway. Joe and I were coming come and I hoped on the subway and quick turned into place. I then noticed a smile of recognition, just like the backbeat days, by a man with Down Syndrome who was holding on to one of the subway poles. I smiled back. When I did his broadened to a grin. Again, it was a loss of aloneness.

He noticed that I was being stared and and I wondered how he felt about it. I'm sure that those eyes that assaulted me had, moments before, been pummelling his right to simply be on the subway. He made his way towards me with clear determination.

"They were staring at me before," he said loudly while pointing at some of the people on the train. They looked mortified, not at their behaviour but at his. "Now they are staring at you. It was bad when they did it to me and now its bad that they are doing it to you."

Now, there is huge tension on the train.

When we got to the next stop a number of people got off. I'm not sure they were all at their stop but, I didn't care, and I didn't miss them.

Then I was asked if I knew what self-advocacy was. He told me that he went to self advocate groups and he'd learned to speak up for himself. He said that I should go. Then something marvellous happened ...

... he told me that he went to a class and he'd learned that when people were staring at him to think to himself, "I'm OK, You're Mean." He then chanted it out loud for me to hear. The few remaining people who had been on the train before looked completely shamed. Now by their behaviour, not his.

I didn't tell him that I had created that training and that I'd probably trained the trainers who trained him. He laughed as he described the role play, the one I'd created, and how much fun it was. I glanced at Joe who has been in that roll play a thousand times, he was, I could see, listening carefully to every word being said.

The fellow said that I should find that class and I should take it.

And.

Hes suggested I join a self advocate group. He thought it would be as much a help to me as it has been to him.

We got off and said goodbye to him.

As the door closed he pointed at me and called out, "You're OK."

And, magically, I was.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

If there ever was a bow to your efforts, your calling - that was it. And that the fellow was so empowered by what he learned that he in turn taught. Wow Dave! That must have been a wonderful moment for you - not only to see and hear such strength and conviction from a man, but also to know you had a part in his growth and advocacy. Kudos.

Just Heidi said...

Indeed you are O.K.!! :) Lesson heard-lesson learned. How wonderful for both of you and the ignorant audience on the Subway.

Susan said...

And Poco Hor, after an incredibly long run, suddenly moves down to second place.

Congratulations, Dave. That is the best affirmation of your work and of who you are that you could ever have...

Jim Currie said...

Must have been a tremendous feeling to witness the effects of your work in that way!

Belly (Liz McLennan) said...

Wow. The universe certainly told you, didn't it? You are in exactly the right spot, in so many, many ways, doing exactly what you're meant to be doing.

Thanks for sharing yourself with all of us, out here.

Anonymous said...

As Belly said: thank you for sharing yourself with all of us out there...

I am certainly learning from you too!

Julia

Richard said...

Awesome! Congratulations on seeing the rewards of your efforts at work! It seems he too is a teacher!

Anonymous said...

Amazing story, you made me happy cry this morning!
L

Andrea S. said...

Years ago, I used to fantasize that some entity with awareness of all things that happen in the universe would come to me (and other people trying to do good in the world) on occasion to share a report on what positive ripple effects our actions had had on the world, just so we would know. I've never had that happen to me, but am glad this has now happened for you!

Anonymous said...

That was the universe with a huge, delighted grin on its face, clapping you on the back with a hearty, "Well done, man--well done!"

If a life experience could be an epitaph, I would choose that to be mine.

Sue

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

What an amazing encounter! I agee with Liz - the universe is definitely trying to tell you something and it is something good. Teachers live for this kind of feedback and rarely get it - you have made a difference, a huge difference.

Thanks for sharing
Colleen

theknapper said...

He is now a teacher!!!!! What a gift for you and him.

Wendy said...

That is absolutely awesome!

Melissa said...

I am seriously in love with this post! I have happy tears in my eyes. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!

liz said...

How amazingly awesome it must have been to hear your words so enthusiastically endorsed.

I'm all verklempt.

Elizabeth said...

Wonderful. Thank you for sharing this story.

Mike said...

What an amazing moment and an intense affirmation. For myself, I don't tend to see this as the universe talking, but that's just me. The moment you shared with this other human being has value, to me, precisely because life is fleeting. It's what we choose to do with the time we have that matters.

Becca said...

Ohmygosh, I LOVE this. Speechless, really. Not sure why it has brought tears to my eyes, but it has. It just has so many levels of *perfect* written into it. Thank you, Dave. Now it's time for you to come speak and set up these programs and trainings here in the US!! :-)

shayneswife said...

More good stuff! I love this!

shayneswife said...

More good stuff! I love this!

Dave Hingsburger said...

Becca, Years ago I did a tour of British Columbia doing training on abuse prevention for people with disabilities. I went to every part of the province ... it was awesome. I've done this training extensively in Ontario and the Maritimes ... I've also done it a fair bit in the UK, but much less often in the US. I'm not sure why that is.

Tamara said...

I keep coming back and reading this. Seeing a message you created and delivered come back to you in such a real way has to just affirm everything you've worked for - because you know this one man is representative of so many other young men and women you have worked with who are also taking that message and spreading it in their own ways. And - he not only spread that message to you, he was emboldened to share that message with everyone around him that day. It's just inspirational -

Cathy said...

Wow...just WOW!

Anonymous said...

Perfect!!

Anna said...

I've been reading about this post today, first Becca was talking about it on FB and then Tara. I too am moved to tears. Not for just one reason but on so many levels. So many of us have experienced something similar, a person that is mean, unkind and rude. You have given parents and educators as well as those with disabilities and well, just plain different a voice. I'm so thankful your own words have come back to haunt you. :) you've done a good thing Dave.

Cynthia F. said...

How amazing! Your children have bested you...

Princeton Posse said...

Oh, Dave, I got shivers when I read this. It does all come around doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

And Poco Hor, after an incredibly long run, suddenly moves down to second place.

Yes Susan its up there with the best for me too! But Poco Hor still makes me cry every time I read it!

Dave, what an amazing experience to see your life work coming full circle!
A truly amazing post!
Bask in the moment Dave and Joe!
Love Linda (LinMac in Dublin)

Anonymous said...

Wow this story is just sooo fabulous! What goes around, comes around!