Again on a stage, this time in Baltimore, I'm doing the 'luncheon keynote' and I've been asked to talk about Bullying and Teasing. I had a few new stories from my workshop in Simcoe (see the 'hand series' a few days ago) and I sat there looking out over an integrated audience. Most were parents and care providers but several were people with disabilities as well. This should be fun.
It was people with disabilities got into what I was saying first and their comments reinforced what I was saying. You can't fool an audience with disabilities. At the end I got a standing ovation. That happens rarely so it was very, very nice.
Afterwards I went to the book table and sat with Joe. He sold books and I chatted with people. One man, a grizzled guy with Down Syndrome, made his way to me with a real sense of purpose. He began talking to me. He talked quickly and with great intent. He said something like this...
k gddh gdaph gmet
There were individual words there, they came quickly, but I didn't understand him. He spoke too rapidly, his words were illformed but their meaning escaped me. I listened harder. I could pick out certain words ... the first I got was 'hurt'. I listened and I knew from his repeat of that word that he was talking about someone hurting someone else. After a few seconds of hard listening, I got the word 'wrong'. He continued to talk and a few more words came clear, they emerged from the haze of sounds and took shape in my mind. His eyes didn't leave mine. I realized that it didn't matter that I understand his every word, he understood his every word. He had something to say, he needed to say it.
At the end, when he took a breath, all I said was, "You're right, it's wrong for someone to hurt someone else."
"That's right!" he said, clear as a bell.
He walked off pleased that he had delivered his speach, pleased that I had affirmed what he had to say.
Umm, this guy with Down Syndrome, this guy with difficult speach, this guy understands that hurting people is wrong. Then why is it so hard for the rest of the world. Presidents, Princes and Potentates don't get it. People who have the gift of oratory will speak in defending the need for torture. People with the gift of words will speak of God's love for some not all. People with the gift of words seem to have little use for the only two words this man could say clearly.