After swigging down a Booster Juice each we were all getting dressed to head home. As I was putting my coat on, I asked Ruby if she could come with me to help me finish my Christmas shopping, I had one store I had to go to before I was done. Sadie was busy planning with Joe to get the stuff ready for making my birthday cake and kept grinning at me about the 'big secret' about my cake. So we were off, Joe and Sadie to prepare cake makings and Ruby and I to finish my shopping.
Ruby is very comfortable around my wheelchairs, both my power chair and my manual. She, from a very young age, was able to put the legs on the manual and about a year ago demonstrated an amazing ability to judge space in relation to both the width and length of my chair. So I had chosen a shopping assistant wisely. I was going to a store that I shop at often. It's long and narrow. At the best of times I have to be careful. However, the staff there are astonishing. They are really helpful and they do everything they can to make the store accessible to me.
I had planned on just getting through the door and then asking a staff to help Ruby find what I wanted and I'd wait and watch as they did what they needed to do. The store was, predictably, really busy and this seemed to be the best solution. This wasn't what Ruby had in her mind. I got in and said to Ruby, "Let's wait until the clerk is free." She looked at me and said, "No, let's go look, there's lots of room." I didn't see the 'lots of room' but she had that 'determined' look that brooks no compromise. I headed into the store. Ruby was a little human plow as she went ahead and politely asked some of the shoppers to let me pass. They all seemed a bit started at the pleasant but firm request from a seven year old girl - and they all moved.
The movie we were looking for wasn't in the racks and I needed to turn around. This is always dicey because there is just exactly enough room which means I have to do it exactly right. I asked Ruby to watch to make sure that no one stepped into the way while I was turning. She stood there like Galileo assessing the heavens as she looked at the space around me and said, "lots of room." I heard her ask someone to wait for a second to me to turn, "Don't worry," she said, "he's fast."
I found a clerk and asked if they had a Christmas section for movies. She said they did and headed off leading us along to where the display was. We found the movie, then we picked up Joe's gift, then we were in the line up. I was a bit out of reach so I gave her the money and she paid. I watched her as she handled the money and dealt with the clerk. Her whole demeanour in the store had been one of quiet determination. She took the role of helping out seriously. She demonstrated a keen understanding of my right to shop, my right to space, and my right to a little bit of help. She's seven.
For some reason, maybe because everyone seems to have such trouble with the idea that we, as disabled people have the right to access and the right to participate and the right to a bit of help when necessary, that it was a really hard concept. Ruby is a bright child, no doubt, but she's also seven.
We left the store, she happy that she got to help out, and me, a little more wiser about the 'why' behind people's (purposeful) confusion about the word 'rights' in relationship to the word 'disability.'