When I am about to receive service from someone, as a person with a disability, for issues regarding my disability, I am filled with anxiety. I do not trust, and I don't think I'm alone in this, that the person, who will be randomly selected to serve me from the cadre of people on shift that day, will be:
1) happy in their job
2) free of prejudice against disabled people
3) free of bigotry against fat people
4) have a core value of kindness
5) able to understand my fear and how to handle it
Some of that list may surprise you. "What? Someone working with people with disabilities who is prejudiced against people with disabilities? How can that be?" I assure you it can be and I'll leave you to speculate how that comes to be as it's a question I wonder often, in my many capacities around the subject of disability.
The other day I received service from someone. I felt the anxiety. Didn't know how I'd be treated, didn't know if I'd be respected, didn't know if I'd come out the other end battered or bettered. But the service I got was simple, quietly reassuring, gentle and even a bit playful. No one thing was exceptional in and of itself, but the service was offered in a way which had me feeling relaxed only a few minutes in.
My brain said: I'm safe here.
My heart said: I'm safe here.
My body said: I'm safe here.
I left struggling to figure out exactly what "behaviours" were done. I couldn't really find any. I've received this service before, and will again, and there wasn't anything really unique this time.
Then I thought of the "attitude" with which I was served and then it was easier to figure out there was an attitude of:
4) shared humanity
5) understanding of my sense of vulnerability
These attitudes shaded the work that was done. It filled the tone of voice, it put a cushion of careful gentleness between those fingers and my body, it communicated reassurance through demonstrated competency.
Two hands can touch, in the same way, doing the same thing, but the touch can be received in very different ways. Both hands doing the same job, but one pair of hands can leave me feeling supported, the other pair of hands can leave me feeling judged.
I was lucky.
I received wonderful support - from someone for whom welcome was an art.