I met a woman with an intellectual disability in a card shop yesterday. She was full of news. She was moving to a new place, getting a new job and making new friends. Her excitement couldn't be contained, it spilled out of her, filling the air around her. As I caught up with her news, I was caught up by her enthusiasm. I had known that she'd set this goal, I had known that she was working on it for a long while. It had been chance that we met like this and I was thrilled that it happened. She's moving out of town and I don't think I'll run into her, maybe ever, again.
She explained to me about how it came about and how much she was looking forward to it and how she was expecting her life to change. I leaned back in my wheelchair, content to simply listen to someone sharing glimpse of a future that had been longed for, a future that she was never sure would happen. And now it has.
As the adrenalin wore off she slowed down a bit and spoke, briefly, about the journey there. She'd had some hard times. She'd made some poor choices. She'd worked so hard. But she shook herself out of all that, though it was all true, it was also true that it was past. She was moving on. The next chapter of her life awaited her.
I sat back enjoying:
being the passive participant in a conversation with a person with an intellectual disability
listening to someone talk about life changes, life struggles and life accomplishments.
Believe me, when I started in this work, none of this would happen. People with disabilities did not drive conversations, they did not steer their lives towards goals that they set independent of a team, they did not map out their own destinies. When I started it was very different. If you hadn't seen someone with a disability for a couple of years, and if you then asked 'what's new' the answer would have been 'nothing.' Because nothing did happen. Oh, reports got written, progress happened on paper, progress happened on goals that didn't matter, progress happened for the approval of, and under guidance by, a team.
So, I sat listening to her, glad that she wanted to convey the news to me. Glad that she was excited. Glad that someone, somewhere, did what they were paid to do ... listen and serve.
It's really that simple isn't it?
Listen and serve.