Thursday, August 13, 2015

Letting Forgiveness Happen

I've ridden with her a few times. She's a little older than me, gets picked up soon after I am, which is very early in the morning, and we chat for the whole ride. I get off first and wish her well on her morning trip to Tim Horton's. We talk mostly about the stuff of being disabled, she has different frustrations than I do, of course, as she lives with a different disability, but the over-arching theme of our chats is how prejudice is made manifest in physical barriers. Neither of us think that architectural exclusion is all that accidental.

When she got on the bus the other day and told me, after I'd asked, that she was going to Tim's again, I wondered why anyone would get up that early to go a long way for coffee and donuts. I also noticed, for the first time, that we went by several Tim's shops on the way to where she goes. I asked her, "Why do you go to that particular Tim's? She told me that it's the transfer point between the Toronto transit system and the Vaughn transit. "Ooooooh," I said and then admitted that I'd wondered at how such a slim person could chow down on so many donuts during the week. We both laughed.

I told her that I'd never used the Vaughn system and asked how difficult it was to book connecting rides. She said, "It's very easy. My brother does it for me. I can do it myself, but I let him do it. It's important to him to do it, so, I just tell him where I'm going and he sets it up."

"Why is it so important for him to book the rides?" I asked.

There was a pause.

"When we were younger, he was very ashamed of me. He let me know it. He let everyone know it. He bullied me and teased me through most of my childhood. He was my big brother and I wanted and needed a big brother but I got a bully instead. For the longest time I hated him."

She paused again. The story wasn't easy for her to tell. I tried to give her the option to stop but she said that she wanted to finish.

"He came to my place one Christmas bringing gifts from the family. I could see he was upset. He broke down and told me that his wife had left him and she'd taken his children. He ended up staying at my place for a long time talking. He realized that he'd been a bully his whole life. First me. Then his wife and kids."

"After that, he changed towards me. He always wanted to help me and was frustrated that I no longer needed his help. One day I asked him if he could book a trip for me, an easy one, to my doctor's office downtown. That was it, from that day on he has booked all my trips. I don't need him to, but I let him. It matters a lot to him."

"I think that's his way of saying, 'I'm sorry," she continued, "my letting him is my way of saying, 'I forgive you.'"

"Forgiveness matters," I said.

She said, "So does repentance."


clairesmum said...

Wow...a very profound conversation...on the way to work, no less! reminds me not to assume that I understand the meanings of behaviors of others....thanks.

Anonymous said...

Two teachers were released from Jakarta prisons this week after over ten years, when it was determined there had been no evidence they had committed a sexual assault.

As an educator and abuse expert, have you been dealing with the issue of false claims in your blog?

Anonymous said...

What a powerful conversation. Letting someone help them for their sake shows a secure person I think. Wow!

Anonymous said...

I am a little surprised you didn't address how bullies sometimes need elements of control beyond reasonable needs. Sometimes it's more healing to decline the bully's continued interference, even in minor things like booking appointments and rides than to maintain your independence.

Oversupporting is a form of abuse you probably have talked about in your blogs. Oversupporting is maintaining supports that are not required for no other reason than to create the illusion that the target still needs the abuser.

It remains her choice. But I thought you'd have mentioned it to her since you appear to know her well. Oversupporting can be a form of abuse.

No biggie.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Anon at 7:36

I didn't address those things because I didn't feel that, in this conversation, those interpretations would have been welcome. She had attached her own meaning to the actions of her brother and was completely comfortable with it. I've had to really learn, at it was a hard lesson for me to learn, when to let my opinions slide. I do agree with you that oversupporting is a form of abuse - she, however, understood the support as meaning something important to her relationship with her brother. I'm good with that.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Anon at 23:27

Of course, in my work with people with disabilities in the area of abuse and abuse prevention, I have had the occasion to deal with false allegations. I think I need to be clear that 'false allegations' can come from anywhere about anyone. People with disabilities, care providers, families - there isn't a 'group' that exists wherein members never make false allegations. I say this because there seems to be a belief that people with disabilities are more prone to false allegations than other groups. I don't believe that to be true. But those situations are all work situations and I deal with them when they arise. I haven't written about this topic here on this blog because it's a personal blog. This isn't either a work blog or an educational blog (though I hope sometimes people learn from the experiences I write about). I've tried really hard to set clear boundaries for myself about what I write here and what I don't. Should I ever run into a situation which makes the topic of false allegations appropriate for my personal blog, I will, indeed write about it.