Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hand on Shoulder

During a self advocate training, one where both the very young and the 'getting on' were present, we were talking about school, and teasing, and bullying, and hazing. After hearing from one of the young people, a woman, not too much older than me, said, 'They wouldn't let me go to school. There had to be meetings. There had to be letters and doctors deciding. But finally, I got to go to school.' We chatted a bit about what it was like to want to go to school but to be disallowed, 'Because I was the way I am' she explained. She started school much older than the others, well behind the others socially and academically. It was very hard for her.

She told her story without embellishment. Full of fact, short on fiction, it was what it was. It was, simply, her journey. Some of the young people looked on, shocked. I don't think they knew, ever imagined, that there was a time when disability was a bar to education, to opportunity, to equal access. They looked to me, of course, for confirmation of her story.


I asked her to stand up. She did. A shy woman, she was unused to the attention. I said to the kids in the room. Because this woman fought to go to school, you have the right to an education. Because this woman dared walk into a place where she had been barred entry, you have the right to expect open doors. Because this woman courageously walked down hallways forbidden to her, to people like her, now all people with disabilities have that right. I think we owe her something.


It was their decision.

She stood, shaking, realizing for the first time what she had done.

Then the applause started.

At lunch break, a young woman with Down Syndrome, a quiet woman with an intense manner stopped beside her elder, placed her hand on the old woman's shoulder and said, louder than I heard her speak all day:

Thank you.


theknapper said...

You capture some simple but oh so profound moments. thank you.

Anonymous said...

You have to deal with so much crap in your life, but boy, the moments like this must outshine all the rest!

Clay said...


Anonymous said...

Thank you Dave for making and telling these stories. Thank you for bringing me faith and hope.

Kristin said...

Thank you for helping her get the recognition she so richly deserves.

Anonymous said...

Gave me goosbumps when I read it!

Faery said...

Thank you for this Dave, once again I'm sat at my desk with tears in my eyes after reading one of your stories.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Dave! Yet again, you have captured the essence of acknowledgement of this lady's journey, while she unknowingly changing the world! These are the stories of people that I 'love' to repeat when trying to open 'professionals' minds to many of the people I work with and tear down barriers