Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thanking Paulette

I use it sparingly, I really like it. I bought it in Tesco on my last trip to the UK and I think it may be a home brand. It sits on my shower shelf in a square clear bottle with the dark gold liquid inside. The print, gold on black, tells me that it's body wash scented with Ginger, Vanillia and Pink Pepper. I think it's one of the nicest I have ever used. I love the smell as I shampoo my locks in the morning. I used it yesterday on purpose, I wanted to smell it. To remember.

Joe uses a soap that has a smell that I identify only with him. It's a clean, crisp smell that I just love. I won't let him tell anyone what he uses because that scent is his, he mine ... and I like it that way.

All this is bouncing around in my mind. Yesterday we are having the Vita Book Club meeting where 10 of us are getting together to discuss 'The Diving Bell and Butterfly" by Jean-Dominique Bauby. The book tells the story of a man felled by a stroke to his brain stem that left him, fully alive, fully aware, but left in a body without movement - he could communicate only through blinking his left eyelid. There is much in the book but I wanted to talk about the moment in the book where he, on a walk, smelled fresh french fries being cooked in a venders cart. How that smell overtook him. As I read it, I could smell it too. There was such a powerful subtext there about how, even with the most significant disability, it was possible to lead a sensual and sensuous life.

Joe picked me up at the office and we went over to Vaughn Mills Mall to the food court for lunch before heading over to the book club meeting. Right by the lunch area is a "Fruits and Passion" store that sells soaps, creams and other unguents. As I ate, I began to think of popping into the store to pick up something with an amazing scent to get those in the group to smell. So that we could really talk about what kind of powerful, wonderful, sensous things we could do to enhance the experience of those with profound disabilities.

I headed over to the store while Joe finished his lunch. He chews his food so it takes him longer. I got into the store and was approached by the store owner about help. I said I was brousing and she left me to enjoy the store. I picked up a small bottle that looked like it contained oil. I didn't have my glasses so I called over to her and asked what it was. She came and was explaining that it was a scented oil. She was beginning to tell me how it was used and I broke in to explain what I was doing.

I told her about wanting to find things, smells, sensations that might bring pleasure to those with much more significant disabilities. To enrich their lives with things that felt good or smelled good. Her eyes lit up. I further explained that I wanted to take something to a book club where we'd be talking about service to those with greater needs. "How many people will be there?" she asked. I told her 9. "How would you like it if I made up a little gift bag for each of them with a few samples of some of our products that might work - that have scents that are beautiful?"

I said I'd like it but she didn't have to do it. She spoke with a passion about her work and her store and that she wanted to ensure that everyone had access to things that gave them pleasure. She talked about how if people couldn't make it to their store because of disability, let her know, she'd deliever things to them. As she spoke, she and another clerk, worked rapidly to put 9 beautiful bags together full of all sorts of treats.

She asked about what agency I worked for and I told her that I worked as clinical manager for Vita Community Living Services and that we were always looking for ideas to enhance our care but mostly increase the quality of life of those in care. I told her that with all the needs of someone with a profound disability - I worry that some of those needs get forgotten or left behind. She talked about the importance of ensure that 'all of a person' needs be met. When she was done I had one huge bag that held the nine gift bags and my one tiny bag with the purchase of the oil I had originally come in for.

She got it.

Not only did she get that people with profound disabilities needed to have access to things that felt good and smelled better. That lives can be enriched by the smell of green apple ..

She got it about her customer base.

Finally, someone who understands each and every letter of the word ...



Kei said...

Wow. What a wonderful woman and a fantastic experience you had.
I love Fruits & Passion products. I order them online often, and have given them as gifts. I pay a bit more just to have their dishwashing liquid~ who would think that just doing dishes could be a sensory experience?

I think my daughter has that book~ if so, I'll borrow it from her. If she doesn't, I think I'll buy it for her (then I can borrow it).

Anonymous said...

I have worked with many students with profound and multiple disabilities, and the pleasure they take in everything they do is a joy to behold. Nothing annoys me more than the assumption that they have a poor quality of life, the assumption that they cannot understand or respond, and most of all the assumption that they do not need stimulating interaction and activity.

A friend of mine has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. He cannot speak or sign, but he responds wonderfully when people talk to him like the normal young man he is, rather than an idiot in a wheelchair that they need to talk down to, or about, or not talk to at all. People talking to him like a baby is one of the few things that makes him stop smiling or laughing.

Quality of life? My friend, and the students with profound disabilities I have worked with, have more spirit and love of life in their little fingers than those who would deny them experiences based on prejudiced or totally subjective assumptions.

Good on you, Paulette!

Anonymous said...

Off topic just a bit.....

Dave, as you love movies...I believe there is film adaptation of this book playing in theaters at present - at least "in the states". Might be worth a look.

Anonymous said...

I clicked to soon.....

this book being "Diving Bell and Butterfly" (if it wasn't clear!)

Tricia said...

Thank goodness for the people who get it. This is surely a reminder that everyone has something to offer and everyone, in there way, can open up their hearts to help.

Belinda said...

I had breakfast with a friend yesterday. It was an artery clogging, bacon and egg breakfast, with home fries. Since my normal breakfast is organic fibre cereal, this was decadent and sinfully delicous. As the plates were placed before us, I leaned over and sniffed the scent of the bacon, fried to crispy perfection. Oh the bliss! The fragrant aroma of fresh coffee too.

My sense of smell is far from acute (an asset sometimes), but I enjoy every bit of life's fragrance that I can.

How wonderful that your day turned into such an olefactory adventure and thank you for the reminder to enrich the lives of the people we assist, with sensory experiences.

Anonymous said...

Dave, this post really made me smile! I do a sensory circle in my class daily, we use scented lotion and scented chapsticks to teach skills like rubbing our hands together and where our lips are. I am not sure who enjoys it more, myself or my students :)


Unknown said...

A collegue of mine introduced perfumes in his class when the students were reading the novel "Perfume". Later, these students testified it was a thing so special they would never forget it.
I can believe people who have difficulties walking or moving get some real compensation when they can enjoy other things , in the same way as one interest in my life very often pushes aside another one.