|Photo Description: two hands holding out a gift wrapped in a red bow.|
I've ridden on the bus with him for nearly 5 years. I am always on the bus first, I've gotten to know some of his staff, saying hello to them as they bring him on the bus. The first time he got on I spoke to him saying only 'Good morning.' His staff, just trying to be helpful, said, "He doesn't speak." I said, also trying to be helpful, "That doesn't mean I shouldn't say 'Good morning."
I've since learned his name and I have continued to greet him when he gets on the bus, always saying 'Good morning,' followed by his first name. After about a year he started to turn to me when I spoke to him. He'd look at me for a bit then look away. I figured that was a 'Good morning' back and I was happy with it.
One day a couple years in, the driver accidentally dropped a clamp and it echoed in the bus. He almost leapt out of his chair and he looked to the driver with absolute fear. Terror claimed his body and he was curled up in his chair, crying, his face buried between arms that looked as if they were trying to protect him from what ever danger, what ever hurt, he was expecting to come his way.
So many people with disabilities live with trauma.
I don't know what happened to him, I only know that something did.
The driver that day looked as shaken up as I was. He felt dreadful that the falling clamp had caused such a violent withdrawal. The rest of the ride brought an end to tears and he only unfolded when the staff on the other end calmly reassured him that he would be OK. That no one was going to hurt him. I prayed that that was true.
This morning, I was given a gift.
He got on the bus and I greeted him as normal. He didn't look at me. Which was odd, that's his normal response.
Instead, he said, "Hi."
His voice was ragged and rusty from lack of use.
But it was, "Hi."
It took almost 5 years of saying good morning for him to feel safe to let me hear his most precious resource.