|Photo Description: A crying mask.|
Someone I know, and at request I'm keeping this vague, wants to come to Joe's and my wedding on Saturday. This person sent a support worker to talk to me. It turns out, as I was told, that this person was too anxious about my response to do this personally. The support worker conveyed to me a concern about a possible trigger for extreme anxiety and a resultant possible outburst during the ceremony. I was asked if we could make a small adaption that would ensure that this trigger was no longer a concern.
Let me step away from the story for a second. The 'small adaption' really wasn't all that small. Joe and I had tussled, not with each other but with the ceremony, and had already had the whole thing planned and organized. The request would require an entire revision of the flow of the service. Considering all this, I said, "Of course, we'll make the adaption. Of course we want them to be there." I tell you this part because we can't act as if all requests for adaptations are easy, or are without some adjustments in the heart and minds of others.
We heard back, only hours later, that this person was 'over the moon' about being able to come and 'cried in gratitude' when they heard that we would make the adjustment. That's not a phrase, this person actually cried when it was realized that welcome had been extended. "They will never be able to thank you enough," said the support worker.
I, of course, was moved.
Joe, of course, was moved.
But then I was having a conversation with Ruti Regan, a Rabbinical student with a developmental disability, and she said something that just jumped out at me, "treating someone as a human being, in itself, gives us way more power than we should ever have."
I'm afraid I stumbled in the conversation as the force of that statement hit me. People with intellectual disabilities are so often subject to subhuman treatment that simply being treated as a valued person, a wanted person, a welcome person, is such a shock that their gratitude is out of proportion to the simplest of actions. Hell, forget intellectual disabilities, I find that when I'm simply treated as a real, live, human being with thoughts and feelings and sensibilities I automatically imagine them to be people of great and wondrous character, almost magical beings. And they may be great and wondrous, but that isn't because they were, in this one instance, kind. I react out of proportion to the gift that's given.
What we did, the decision that we made, to make the adaption to our ceremony took some work and required us to go over ground we'd gone over a thousand times. But, this act of inclusion, was simply an act of inclusion, it shouldn't be surprising, it shouldn't be unexpected ... the asking of it shouldn't be done with anticipation of rejection and so fearful that an emissary needed to be sent to make the request. This person, who I thought would know that we would want them there, expected nothing from us because nothing is what is typically given.
I want their tears uncried.
I want their gratitude turned into a simple 'thanks.'
I want them to expect of me, and of the world, welcome.