During the introduction and warm up, we were all asked to think about a word that would express how we feel in the moment and then the audience was to share that word, or a handshake or a hug with each other. I was on the podium so I didn't have a chance to share my word. I had a word, it came clearly to mind when the question was asked.
So I started by saying that I wanted to share my word. The word I shared was 'welcomed' ... I felt welcomed. I pointed out the ramp, leading up to the podium and talked about how rare it is that people bother with the ramp. It's like people think that there would never be a need for someone with a disability to be on a podium, with a microphone and something to say. "'Welcome,' isn't an attitude you feel, it's an action you take, it's the act of making welcome. I felt welcomed and I expressed my gratitude for the fact that the hotel owned the ramp (most have to rent one) and the organizers had it set up for me.
I am the only one who needs the ramp.
And it was there.
It mattered to me.
Only a few weeks ago, I was on another ramp in another hotel, for NYSACRA, and there, too, I felt this amazing, overwhelming sense of, not gratitude, but ... well there's no other way to say it, but welcomed. It was a welcoming environment.
Twice in a short period of time, I've been welcomed in such a concrete way. A welcome that doesn't involve touch but nonetheless, touched me deeply.
I often speak of creating communities of welcome, I believe in them even more, now. Now that I've experienced them.
I'm heading out in a few minutes to get back up on that stage,
And I'm going to look out at an audience that thinks nothing about learning from someone who's sitting, not standing. They won't realize it - but that, to is an act of inclusive welcome.
I get home on Thanksgiving ... I know, exactly what I'm going to list as things I'm thankful for this year.