Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reach out and touch someone.

Hello, friends!

I have just arrived at my evening class - a thought provoking if not interesting discussion of Human Sexuality. Heads up, guys - the top two thirds of a woman's vagina are nerve ending free. So, all that stuff they say tidal waves and oceanic movement really is true. There's something I didn't know before, and will definitely change the way I notice men's shoes.

Moving along.

I arrived at my class tonight after a full day at work, hungry and plaintive. (I have slipped into full Betsy Ross mode - ripping up my old and bleach-stained jeans to make bow-ties. How eco friendly is that?! Totally cool, right?! I know.) Nothing like a hard day at work sewing (badly) to fire up your appetites. Thankfully, I had a most helpful co-worker offer me tasty snacks!

I bet you're wondering what this has to do with my topic of discussion. Well, upon arrriving for class, I noted a full bottle of cranberry juice and a nearly-whole cheeseburger lying on the ground. I might not have noticed it if it were not in my path to class. But I did, and it made me think.

Saint Husband and I recently did some volunteer work for an organization called 'Second Harvest' in their 'Harvest for Hunger' campaign. In case you are wondering, Second Harvest is a Toronto-based charity that provides fresh food (perishables - items that you cannot get at a food bank: meat, dairy and produce) to people in need.

I thought about that again, as I munched on my tasty, tasty snacks: how fortunate we are to be able to enjoy things like smoked Gouda, or tartes aux chocolats. And yet, there is so much waste. How many people will go hungry tonight and would have gratefully eaten that food, and be horrified at the thought of such waste?

Both Sainted Husband and I stood outside in the frigid cold last Sunday evening, soliciting donations from the community to support the Harvest for Hunger campaign that will feed many families in need. For every one dollar donation, the charity is able to provide two fresh meals. Sounds pretty economical to me! Yay, for waste saving!

Anyway...

Picture it: here's me. I am sitting outside of Sobey's on a Sunday night - a very cold night - wearing a sandwich board and a chef's hat. I am sitting in my chair holding a tin can. I am looking very shaky and cold and pathetic. Which apparently makes more people likely to part with their morning coffee money. Cool. I'll take it. I have absolutely no problem whatsoever playing into your stereotypes to help feed hungry people.

Three hours and $275 dollars later, I am walking home with Dear, Sainted Husband, discussing the experience where one particular patron stands out to mind:

There I am, standing outside looking sad and weepy with my little tin can, chatting up the customers (I did compliment more than one pair of "fantastic" [read: ugly as sin] shoes to get an extra toonie. Shameless. I know). A woman comes up to me and drops a dollar in my little can. She then comments that my fingers are blue (which they are. It was really cold.) and that "the man looking after me (Saint Husband. He is inside. There is a display inside that needs to be manned. I chose to go outside. I felt that needed to be noted.) should come out and give me his sweater."

I respond by telling her that "I'm fine", and that it really isn't much longer (It really wasn't). She proceeds to march inside and tell DSH that "that girl in the wheelchair needs a coat. She is going to die of hypothermia" (this, I heard later).

DSH comes dashing out of the store, panicking that I am gravely ill. With reassurances that my core temperature is well within normal range, I send him back with a giggle and a gentle admonishment for paying such close attention to the silliness of others.

I assume that she finished her shopping, as she comes out 40 minutes later to ask me why I'm not wearing DSH's wooly sweater, walking away, stating that I am "too nice".

Is it really possible to be too nice? Especially in relation to making your own choices...really? I'm surprised. Though, I'm not really all that surprised, given my experience with other people and their opinions of what it is that I should be doing.

Her insistence about the appropriateness of my shivering (please, Mum, if you're reading this: I was wearing socks and a coat and an extra sweater.) is rendered comical (to my mind) by the fact that she was wearing capri-length leggings, bare feet and flip flops (by the way Mum: she was not wearing a coat, either. Just so you know).

Here, I feel myself asking the same questions I always ask: what is with these people? (I know, just trying to be nice, and all that. But - I ask you: what if someone said/did that to you? Does just trying to be nice still apply?

Sounds like a double standard to me.

When I started this blog, I promised myself that it would not become a platform for the way I feel about disability, disability issues, and general soap box jumping. Then, I started showing the blog to people (thank you, Social Networking site!), after the incident with Unnamed-for-fear-of-slander-suit Regional Transit Company, people said, "this is what this blog should be used for. You have a voice. It's a strong one. Use something that can reach people.

Can you feel it? That's me, reaching out. Touching you.

Did you like it? Enjoy it.

Good night, lovelies. xo

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Being the Change

Hello, friends.

I have just returned home to my most comfortable abode after a long and difficult day of academic drudgery. It's cold, dark and drizzly and I am so glad to be home, wrapped my ice cubed toes in some of dear, Sainted Husband's wooly socks, and  comitting a most delicious pork chop dinner to my waiting, rumbling belly.

Slagging off to Brampton at 5 am - not even in summer months is the sun up that early - not my first choice when it comes to Saturday morning plans. After spending a sleepless night watching Law and Order: Criminal Intent re-runs, I arose to the plaintive bleating of my alarm...

Fast-forward a few hours (and transit systems) later, and I am sitting in class talking about the difference between inclusion and integration. What joy! I admit I have a somewhat vested interest in the matter, but I must admit that I remain shocked and taken aback at the lack of passion and vested interest among other parties - namely, my fellow classmates - all of whom work in the field of disability services.

Why is it that 'inclusion' is a concept reserved specifically for the disabled population? Inclusion (albeit in my tiny mind) is a concept that involves fostering a global community where all people are involved - included. All people are recognized and celebrated for the unique gifts that they bring to our experience as human beings, and how we relate to one another.  Inclusion, valued roles and belonging are things that are sought after by the disabled community alone.

Inclusion, valued roles and belonging are prized possessions of the human condition. There are many examples throughout our history as humankind:

Women; through the feminist movement, women's lib, and the suffragette movement have fought for the right to be recognized as equal and contributory citizens, to participate in the political process, promote equal pay for equal work and the right to reproductive self-determination. To name only a few.

People of color; have fought against segregation, deep-seated hatred and racism. They also fought for the right to be recognized as equal and contributory citizens, to participate in the political process, standing together as a culture to proclaim their dreams for the future.

People who are gay, lesbian, transgendered and two spirited; they too fight against prejudice, religious/ cultural condemnation, vociferously advocating for the rights of full citizenship that heterosexuals take for granted.

Why have we failed to include all of these marginalized, disenfranchised people when we consider what it means to be inclusive? I acknowlege, right here and now, that there will always be struggle - it is unrealistic to expect utopia. There is a commonality to struggle. There is a commonality among those who experience it, and those who create it.

We all want the right to be recognized as equal and contributory citizens, to participate in the political process and to receive equal pay for equal work.

So why isn't it happening?

Some of my classmates would argue (I, by the way, dissent. Vociferously. Bleatingly.), that inclusion as a global concept - and to one that isolates people with disabilities as those needing to be included - lags because of a lack of governmental involvement...."the government needs to be more involved", "the government needs to make this more of a priority".

Sitting in class, listening, thinking of all the battles I've fought - where was the government when I was told that I didn't deserve 'to be sucking air', on a public transportation vehicle, by an employee who is paid with funding from the Ministry of Transportation (which, by the way, is governmnent)? Where was the government when my parents fought tooth and nail to keep me in my community school, to be educated along with my peers and siblings?

Why are we so keen to shirk our responsibility?

Community awareness and mobilization has nothing to do with the government. It is a grassroots movement of people, standing together to fight for what is right. Coming together as one voice, a voice that stands tall and unwavering in the face of naysayers. Stronger together - catalysts for change.

To be the change we want to see in the world.

What would have happened to Martin Luther King's dream, if he had sat by and said, "this is the government's job"? Or, Rosa Parks? If she believed that it was not her responsibility to stand up against hatred and say that what was happening was wrong....where would we be?

Parents, before the passing of Bill 82 - and still today, ffighting for alternative educational options for their disabled children, educating them in church basements, and at home...what was to become of them had parents not demanded the same entitlements afforded other children? To let "the government be more involved"?

We've seen what happens. We understand the damage that exclusion can do to a person. To a culture. To a race. CNN News reported yesterday, a teenager who comitted suicide after being outed on the internet. Where was the government in supporting him and his right to live free and unencumbered by the narrowmindedness of others?

It is our responsibility, as members of the human community. Ours. To stand behind one another, no matter what the struggle, the battle, the war. To send a message that your battle is just as important as mine, and that we are valuable allies to one another in the fight for inclusion. Where everyone belongs.

Included.

Goodnight, lovelies...xo