"How do you help people?" Ruby asked.
I was reminded at being at a lecture, many years ago, where the keynote speech had been given by a fairly well known, fairly wealthy man who was a wheelchair user. His speech was wonderful and funny, and I'm sorry but it was, inspiring. This guy knew how to get a message across. He'd left a few minutes at the end of his speech for questions.
After a couple of fairly bland questions a fellow with a significant physical disability asked a kicker of a question. "You give a good speech and you have a great career, but the question I want to ask is this: What have you personally done to make the world better for people with disabilities - you the person, not you the lecturer, you the businessman - what have you done?"
It was one of the most awkward moments I've ever experienced in all of my travels. The keynote speaker sat there and was stumped by the question. After a second or two the host called an end to the questions and there followed a fairly weak round of applause.
I learned something that day - beyond 'never take questions at a keynote.' I learned that I had a responsibility to do something more than what I'm called to do at work or what I'm paid to do behind a podium. I have a greater responsibility simply as a person who cares about a variety of issues. Do I do more than just care - does care translate into action - do I make the time to take the time to do more than just gripe or grumble.
So when Ruby asked me that simple question, I answered it as simply as I could. But it made me think again about my responsibilities to my various communities.
If I was challenged would I be able to say that I've done my part, that I've met my responsibilities? I think I could, for the most part, say that I try.
But that little voice asking me that question reminds me that I am now an elder - in my various communities. I owe so much to those who fought for the access that I have, the rights that I have, the freedoms I enjoy. Those in the early disability movement, those in the early gay movement, those who, in their day, wondered if it would matter. Well it did.
I have always believed that what we do is parent every child with a difference and every different child every day that we draw breath. We do this by caring enough about the world to speak when voices are needed, to take action when work needs to be done, to refuse to accept what is and to work for what can be.
That's how you help people.
I hope that I remember a little voice saying, 'how do you help people' and I hope I'll always be able to answer.