He struggled a bit. All of us got together to review what happened at Gay Pride. I suppose the meeting could have been called a 'debriefing' but it really was a 'celebration'. Vita Community Living Services marched in the parade for the first time this year and many of our members came to participate. We went to Pride with a message about diversity and respectful language. We handed out a card which asked the reader to think about language and think about how hurtful words could be.
We were unprepared for the reception we'd get. Thousands of cards were handed out, people read them, people asked for more, people cheered us and our intent. We all told stories about the day, about significant things that happened. About people who were touched and people who were changed. For the first few moments all of those who spoke were care providers of some sort. Most had come on their day off just to celebrate, all had a story to tell.
I did not know the member sitting beside me very well but I could feel him struggle. He was working up his courage to speak, marshaling his language into form and order. I am always impressed when those with a vocabulary limited both by disability and by educational apathy use monumental will to pull sparse language over large concepts, like pulling a threadbare blanket over very cold toes.
Finally he spoke. He talked about handing the cards out and hearing people tell him that he was doing something good. He had been taken aback by the positive reception, he has not had a lot of positive reaction in his life. He said, 'It felt good down in the bottom of my soul. It felt really good.' He talked about what it meant to him to be making a change, making the world different and better for others.
The room was very quiet as he spoke. We knew that he was working hard to ensure that we all understood that it was important to him that he work towards his own liberation. That he understood how the 'R' word felt more than any of us did. That he handed those cards out with a conviction that we could only guess at. He finished speaking, saying again, that the day had meant a lot to him, that having his message printed on the card so that he could easily pass out a demand for social change.
Then in a quiet room, he said, 'Now, who wants a piece of cake.'