Monday, February 27, 2012

Be Out There

photo and page copyright Hannah Beach, I Can Dance a Better World
One of the things that I have learned over the years with Jessie, is that just being OUT there in the community—going to the library, walking to school, using the community centre, drinking coffee at the local coffee shop, sending her out for movies or bread, or just to the bank at the corner—is the best inclusion strategy there is. While the goal might sometimes look like getting books or doing the banking, I have come to see that the “real” goal (i.e., the most meaningful goal) is connection, to become insinuated into the warp and woof of this multi-textured tapestry that is community.

This has often meant letting go of certain outcomes (such as learning to do up buttons, or ensuring total safety, or getting the exact movie that we wanted, or paying a reasonable price for bread), but being open to experiencing others (such as learning how to sneak up the down part of the slide without the teacher noticing, or a complex people-based safety net that returns your daughter when she escapes the house without you knowing and heads off to the river, or her being a shoo-in for a coveted volunteer position at the library, or being asked to preach at church in front of an adoring congregation).

Over the years, Jessie has taught me that to be out there is critical: to life, to living, to loving, to contributing. And only IF our children are out there, if we take a risk to let go of some of our expectations and let the world (and God/the universe/or some other un-nameable higher power) help determine outcomes, is it possible to live a good and meaningful life. A life filled with giving and receiving, freedom and responsibility, loving and being loved.

So we committed ourselves to getting her OUT there and continue, as her world expands, to see the unexpected outcomes create new possibilities and connections that nurture her and nudge her into places we might not, on our own, lead her.

As she gets older, being out there also means that she is much less dependent on us for her sense of self. Which is a good thing! As I can be a bit of a naysaying witch master (you call THAT putting your clothes away?) at the best of times. Being out there also means that she builds circles of support and meaning that are rooted in her daily pursuits and passions.

When Jessie registered for the Introduction to Public Relations course, we had a few goals in mind. These included learning to: take notes, track assignments, participate in college-level discussions, negotiate the Centre for Students with Disabilities, take a new bus route, take tests, and begin to find her way around the college campus. Her goals included: being a college student, learning about public relations, being a college student, eating in the college caf, and, being a college student.

Instead of waiting for the perfect circumstance (an inclusive and supportive program and structure), we jumped in with what we thought might be enough to sustain the experience and trusted that the universe might just bless us with a few surprises. And it has.

Jessie has had the experience of a wonderful instructor who fully includes her in all discussions and who seems completely and naturally comfortable with Jessie as a full-fledged member of her class (what does that tell you that we did not assume that this would be so?). While the mark on her midterm is still an unknown (they get their marks tonight), it seems a smaller part of her education and definitely a smaller part of her experience. She has made new friends and contacts . . . eager to share her accomplishments with each other. This is the e-mail that came in the other day:

Good morning all! [sent to class list]
I was enjoying a lovely commute in to town this fine spring morning and what lovely voice did I hear on CBC radio? Our very own classmate, Jessie! Here is the link to the full segment: [click here to link and listen to the CBC morning show item]. Jessie, I recognized your voice and passion for dance right away. Awesome job! Talk about great public relations for such a wonderful initiative!

It’s so wonderful to have peers and people with whom to share your accomplishments!

For those interested, I've included a brief clip from the video of the dance that Jessie created below; Hannah’s full website can be found here.

I wonder . . . what unexpected consequences have you had from being OUT there?


BLOOM - Parenting Kids With Disabilities said...

I loved Jessie's dance and her intro to it. She is a fabulous speaker.

Thanks so much for sharing. And great advice in your post!

Nan said...

Thanks Louise! I'm challenged also by your writings on friendship and am trying to put together some thoughts on that. But being OUT THERE is a part of it too. Keep inspiring us! (For those who don't know Louise and BLOOM, go to