A while ago, a colleague, Jansi and I, tried a new place for lunch in a wealthy suburb. It was one of those lovely sandwich, soup, salad, coffee places that cater to both professionals and the woman’s lunch-after-tennis crowd.
Since we had never been there before but had gotten a recommendation that they had great soups, we were a little puzzled that the artful menu board didn’t have soups listed. We were talking aloud about this when a middle aged gentleman pointed out a separate small board on the counter with “Today’s Soups” listed. He told us that is where the soups are listed. He seemed to know the cafe well and was greeted as a regular customer.
He seemed to be well liked in this upscale establishment in spite of the fact that his clothes were not equal to the labels of the other customers. Nevertheless, he blended in with the crowd.
After thanking him, I noticed his slow gait and deliberate gestures. We ordered, sat down and began enjoying our lunch. He sat nearby and that’s when Jansi noticed another customer approach him and help him with the bag of chips he had been struggling to open.
Returning to the office, Jansi and I spoke about how this man, who clearly had an intellectual disability, had given us assistance in the most natural way and then when he needed assistance, he didn’t seem to need to ask for it. Someone just noticed his struggle and asked if he needed help. We had witnessed the community as it should be. When help is needed- it is given. When help is received- it is accepted.
In the disability community, with having to put everything into a professional context, we call this “natural supports.”
On the way home from work that evening, during our long commute which I often share with Jansi, I reached for a bag of pretzels and as the driver, was struggling to open it. That’s when Jansi asked if I wanted help. She opened the bag and handed it back to me.
We laughed at the recent memory of the earlier struggle of the man with a bag of chips and my current struggle with a bag of pretzels.
We are not so different from each other.
It’s just too bad we don’t notice often enough.