Every day, after summer camp, we pick the girls up and head straight for the ice cream truck. This is a wonderful part of the day because Ruby and Sadie are full of stories from the day, telling us all they've learned, all the crafts they've worked on and about who dodged dodge ball best. Yesterday, after cones were eaten and stories told, it was time to walk home. Joe and I have decided that we'd walk home a different way every day. There are many routes, there's no need to use only one.
Our route took us back by the ice cream vendor and the entrance to the camp. Along the sidewalk there is a low fence, set a perfect sitting level, where people who get ice cream or hot dogs often sit to eat and chat. We had gone to the front of the building to sit on the seating provided there. Most people were gone and no one was sitting on it. Sadie was the first to decide to jump up on it and walk along the narrow bar. She waved Joe over, took his had for balance and then, like a tight rope walker, carefully made her way forward.
Ruby, thinking the idea was a good one, jumped up too. She's a little older and she has tremendous balance so she didn't need to hold hands. She wanted me to ride close by her so she could reach out and grab my shoulder if she felt that she might fall. I pulled my wheelchair up close, Ruby stopped, touched my shoulder and said, "That's perfect!" Then she set on her way. It's a fairly long fence with a couple of turns but Ruby only needed to used my shoulder twice, both times to momentarily regain balance. The rest of the time I concentrated on simply going along side, shoulder ready at any moment.
As I watched Joe and Sadie, a few steps ahead, and glanced at Ruby concentrating on her walk, it felt wonderful to be in their lives and trusted to be there to make hard things easier, to make risky things safe to try. It's an amazing thing to be freely and easily handed the trust of a child. I felt honoured, I could see Joe did too.
But as we walked, I thought of the work that we do, those of us who work to support people with disabilities. This is what we do, isn't it?
To be the 'shoulder' when a 'shoulder' is needed.
In any way that it is needed.
Both Ruby and Sadie were thrilled to make it all the way to the end of the fence. "I didn't think I'd make it ALL THE WAY!" Sadie said excitedly. "I didn't fall once!" Ruby said, proudly.
It's amazing how far people can go, when they've got the right support.