Saturday, April 03, 2010

Waiting (for respect)

What's easy to see?

Her age and her disability.

She is grandmotherly. Her grey hair is swept back purposefully, it is hair that looks like it has rebelled it's entire life and has not yet given in. She walks with a decided limp. Almost an exaggerated, comic limp. It looks as if her left leg is two inches shorter than the right leg. But it is not. When she stands, she stands one foot beside the other, hips in a straight line.

What's easy to think?

She moves quickly around the room bringing us first juice, then tea. She removes plates smartly and makes sure the jam is stacked up neatly on the tables. A group of ten is coming in so she is pulling chairs and moving tables and replacing chairs. All the while moving in a disconcerting fashion. Her disability is obvious. One imagines pain in her leg even if not seeing pain in her face. It's easy to think that life is unfair, that she shouldn't have to work, that this toil is too much for her, that her disability is enough to deal with - without moving tables. It's easy to think that the pain that I imagine is pain that is real. It's easy to think that she'd be happier at home with a cup of tea and hours to relax.

What's hard to see?

Her joy and her competence.

She is a highly social person, chatting easily, in two languages with other staff there. This is a woman who loves the company of others, she greets guests warmly and wants to be invited in to serve and to ensure a sense of welcome. She tells us of having an old husband at home still sleeping. She's up early and working, she let's him sleep as she heads out the door. She is clearly proud of her competence and loves the social contact her job gives her. She loves being needed. But perhaps the hardest thing to see, because it is so abstract, is that every second she is there, money is trickling into her bank account. Her money. Created wealth. I am woman hear me roar, I am disabled see me soar!

What's hard to think?

This woman has a right to this job. She has a right to be respected for her skills. She certainly doesn't need the barely hidden pity of those around her. She certainly doesn't need the attitude that maybe people with disabilities are better off being cared for by others rather than making their own way. She doesn't need, and I'm sure doesn't want, a irregular gait to exclude her from regular dreams.

Note to self:

See what's hard to see, think what's hard to think.

1 comment:

Kristin said...

Dave, your words present such a clear and vivid picture...and you teach us such important lessons with your beautiful words. Thank you.