Last week I wrote about an interesting conversation I had about Tourettes with a group of young boys at the Nature Garden, one of the projects where I work. I was back there yesterday showing a prospective volunteer round. As we walked through the tiny bit of woodland at the back of the site we came across a group of children playing.
The group, of mixed ages, were in the middle of negotiating whose turn it was to ride in the big wheelie-bin they were playing with. As we got closer, one of the youngest in the group, a little girl of about five, looked up and saw us coming towards them. She called out to me ‘What a beautiful lady!’ This was lovely and certainly not the greeting I’d been expecting.
I thanked her, and then she told us that she and her friend couldn’t get into the wheelie bin because they were too small, and they were clearly frustrated by this. The older children had been trying to help them but it hadn’t been working out. Leftwing Idiot, who was supporting me, helped them into the bin and soon they were smiling happily inside it, ready for their expedition.
Just before they trundled off the little girl told me again how pretty I was. Then as an afterthought she asked me about my wheelchair. I explained that my walking was wobbly and I fell down a lot so I used wheels instead. She smiled and said ‘OK’. Leftwing Idiot pointed out that she was about to use wheels to get about too and she laughed excitedly as the wheelie-bin started to move and they headed off.
I was touched by this brief conversation because I got a real sense that she saw me as person first, rather than focusing on my wheelchair or my unusual movements. I was also impressed that she greeted me in such a lovely way before telling me about her dilemma.
I sometimes worry that I get lost behind all my tics, or feel sad because they enter a room before I do. I’m used to people looking at me, making comments, and asking questions, but these nearly always relate to Tourettes rather than to me. It was amazing to be greeted with such warmth and to feel noticed for a reason other than ‘biscuits’ and chest-banging.
I left the garden feeling lifted and reminded of the power small interactions can have.