I met her on paper first.
Never a good idea.
We drove several hours to meet her. There was a good chance she'd be moving out of the large institution and into our care. The file was daunting. Her behaviour frightening. Prospects predicted, hopeless. But drive we did. We talked about the concerns we had, both with moving someone with a tough history of behaviours and with our capacity for caring for her. Would we be up to the task?
We meet for several hours and talk. Talk. Talk. Everyone speaks up and her life is drawn, not in colours and hues, but in black and white. Stark. At the very idea of community living heads shake. Failure it seems is assured. She'd tried before. Failed. Failed. Failed.
Then we ask to meet her.
We listen to warnings.
And then ask again.
She is sitting playing a computer game. She seems drab. Lifeless. Stares at the screen and looks up at us with little interest. She was hopeless. She'd given up more than hope. It was like she'd given up joy. Even so we chatted with her.
She nodded. It was a word she'd heard often.
Cut to today.
I'm in my office meeting with Manuela and the first hint I had of another presence was the smell of Lysol. I glanced up and saw that a woman with a disability was approaching my office ready to clean the handle on my door with a rag soaked in disinfecting cleaner. My hands have never ever been dirty enough to require that strength of solvent - but I smiled and said go ahead.
Manuela was watching my face. I felt her gaze.
Then it hit.
I shot a look at Manuela and said quietly, "Oh, my God it's her."
She heard me and looked up from her cleaning and pointed at me, "I know who you are!"
"And I know who you are!"
The moment of recognition as she recognized me as the guy who visited that day in the institution split her face wide with a grin. "I want to talk to you again," she said and we decided to meet tomorrow for a chat.
You should have seen her face.
It was full of life.
You should have seen her eyes.
They were bright with purpose.
You should have seen her body.
It was as if she was carried, as if freedom had the boyancy of water.
You should have seen her movements.
There was real purpose and pride in her job of cleaning my door.
I want to meet this woman. Reputation made of paper.
Tomorrow we shall chat. Character colouring in between the lines of black and white.
Tomorrow we shall meet.
How incredibly cool is that?