Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Mr.Macchiato took this picture last month when he hiked Mt. Huron. I had to stay home and read a bunch of material for the class I took in L.A. later that week.
There is a guy with spina bifida that comes into the office to help me once or twice a month. He came to my open house when I first started the job because he wanted to volunteer. He just turned 20 last week and I really enjoy spending time with him.
This last Sunday I went to a church to observe their special needs section. The people used to go to another church where I had gone before and helped out a few times. It was wonderful to see many of the same faces again.
Afterwards we all went to Culver's for lunch. I took three people with me in my car and my sandal broke as we were leaving the sanctuary. It was so sweet how one of the guy's was very concerned that I was burning my foot on the pavement as we walked to the car. As we walked into the restaurant he held my arm. He likes to dress in combat gear and is pretty high functioning. In fact, he works as a custodian and lives on his own. He told me that no one is allowed to touch his combat boots which he keeps very nice. As he was leaving the restaurant with his ride home he came up to me and told me I could touch one of his boots.
I took the other man that rode with me to the restaurant home. He has Down Syndrome, is high functioning and also lives alone. He informed me that he will be turning 42 later this month and told me about the places he's worked. He was let go from Del Taco because they didn't have enough work for him. He is now trying to get a job at Taco Bell. He told me about his "Honey" and how after 13 years he wants to "break the ice" with her so he went to the mall and bought her a necklace. He very politely shook my hand and thanked me for the ride home and then told me how much he loves to go to church and is glad that he has somewhere to go again.
There were about 35-40 of us in the restaurant. I sat back and observed how others in the restaurant reacted toward our group. It was interesting to me that there were some that were openly annoyed by our presence. There was a family with small children that the parents even appeared to be angry. Most people just looked quickly at the group and then averted their eyes as they found tables for themselves. Some people would look over curiously but then also quickly look away if anyone looked toward them. Then there were some people that were friendly and acknowledged our presence as they walked past.
I think most of us have been raised not to stare at people that are different. I even taught my children that. I don't know though... in a way that training can foster an environment of invisibility. In Africa there is a group of people that greet one another this way, "I see you," and the reply is, "I am here." I think most of us want to be acknowledged on some level. I've been told many times by those with intellectual disabilities that they like me because I am nice to them. So often they move about their lives on the fringe... in the shadows.