A Preface to Today's Blog: I almost didn't write this. I forget sometimes that this blog serves two purposes. One, it's meant to be read by others, and hopefully what they read will be memorable, or interesting, or helpful, or even simply amusing. Two, it's meant to be read by me - as a journal or diary of my life and my thoughts. This blog is the only really record of my life, we don't take photographs, we don't use our phone to make videos, I blog - that's it. However recently when something happens that I want to record, I haven't done it here. I've had some pretty nasty emails about my blog being 'egocentric' (which is odd because I thought all blogs kind of were) and 'full of boasting'. I am always stung by these emails. So I've been actively thinking about everything I write to be careful to avoid the 'boasting' ... I can't do anything about the egocentricity, after all it is a blog about my life. Then something happened a couple days ago that was highly meaningful to me, I knew it might not be meaningful for others, but I wanted to preserve it. I don't want to forget it. That's why I created the blog in the first place. So, even though accusations can be made about my motive, I've checked, and checked thoroughly, I simply want to remember this moment. So this blog is mostly for me, the me in the future who will be reading this. You may read too, if you want to share the moment with me.
A few days ago I was doing training for staff on 'The Ring of Safety' ... which is a lecture that looks at the various skills that people with disabilities need to learn in order to be safe. I created this concept years and years ago and the lecture has been part of my repertoire for a long time. I've had to change the whole afternoon when doing the presentation in Ontario because the new legislation makes what I was doing redundant. So, I'd added in different material and was working through it with the audience, who were for the most part, really attentive.
Up near the front was a young fellow with a disability who in the morning asked a few questions. He was a very well spoken and thoughtful man. I remember thinking what an asset he'd make to the self advocate movement and really hoped he was involved. His questions were incisive, carefully asked, and focused on the issue at hand. He kept himself out of the questions - which is a skill that some self advocates have difficulty with - so the questions were content related. I enjoyed hearing his questions and following the thinking behind the questions.
In the afternoon, at one point, the presentation became really a conversation between him and me. He had questions and concerns about the legislation, police involvement and the cleverness of abusers. They were awesome questions and I worked as hard as I could to explain, as I understood the process we as service providers were supposed to follow.For maybe five or ten minutes it seemed like everyone else disappeared and he questioned while I listened, then he listened while I answered. It felt quite dynamic and I found myself truly and completely engaged. When done, he nodded that he understood and the workshop went on. I hoped that those attending found his questions interesting and the answers informative.
The workshop wound down and I told my last story and then pause, and thanked everyone for coming. The audience applauded warmly. He, however, stood up. It was maybe the smallest standing ovation I ever got, and yet is was one of the most meaningful. He noticed that no one else was standing and quickly sat down again. But it didn't matter. I had already by then been really affected by what he had done.
This will probably come out wrong, because I like applause as much as the next guy and when I get a standing ovation at the end of a lecture I'm always thrilled. But there is something a little different when someone with a disability stands, or when someone with a disability tells me I got it 'right'. It's a different kind of affirmation. It means that those who really know, through the lives that they live, if the material 'fits' or 'is real' have given a stamp of approval.
I have many awards hanging on my office wall. One of my favourites is a very plain plaque, given to me by self advocates, at a CLO conference, thanking me for helping to keep them safe. I was moved to get it. I am moved when I see it and read the words on it.
The moment he stood up, I felt affirmed, I felt like my teaching and training had received the highest rating it could ever get. It mattered.
And I want to remember the moment that I got the smallest, yet largest, standing ovation of my career.