Supporting The Vulnerable

At times, all to often, everybody’s life can be cruel, unfair and for some, life events unjustified. In one of my previous posts in December ‘Last Day, New Beginnings’ I alluded to how a small proportion of the general public regard and react to those who are visibly different from what is perceived to be ‘normal’. This is especially true for those who have been dealt a cruel twist of fate by suffering from a severe learning disability. Unfortunately, public reactions often materialise in ways that defy logic!

In the very recent past, I was fortunate to support and work with several men who were born with and in some cases develop extremely severe learning disabilities. I remember the very first day I walked into their large, adapted house. I admit I was surprised with how they acted, but not horrified or judgemental. One of the men who I would eventually support and care for, unexpectedly lunged at me and grabbed one of my wrists with both hands, trying with all his strength to pull me towards him. Luckily, I’m physically strong so his efforts came to nothing, in fact, he let go of me, smiled and walked away. My manager at the time informed me I’d have to get used to that sort of behaviour because that’s just the way it was.

During the early days, I discovered that all this gentleman wanted to do was drag me to the kettle to make him a cup of tea. The following months and years were filled with the exact same behaviour. Nothing changed. He wasn’t violent in any way, he just couldn’t communicate in the usual ways. When he was taken out of the house to go shopping, go to the bank or just go for a walk, he would walk alongside me, hold my hand and grin a mostly toothless grin. The only time he would pull away from my hand was when he noticed a piece of rubbish on the pavement or something else blowing in his path, especially if it was an empty polystyrene cup. The thing that I noticed when we were out and about was that some people would cross over the road to avoid walking past us. I found this very strange and extremely rude. I would often notice people pointing at the man who was holding my hand, or maybe they were pointing at me, and talk about us, sometimes bursting into fits of laughter!

When I escorted my gentleman to the G.P. some people would unashamedly get up from their seats and move to the other side of the waiting room. It was as if they thought whatever was wrong with him was infectious! Bloody ridiculous!

It was only a small minority, but nevertheless, it was a ridiculous attitude. I remember one episode when I escorted the same gentleman to a bank in the town centre. I had put some clean jogging bottoms on him before we set off and thought I had tied them up securely. I was wrong! I led him through the door into the bank, holding his hand when he spotted some leaflets neatly stacked up on the counter. He quickly pulled away from me, lunged for the leaflets and proceeded to throw them into the air like confetti! During the process of attempting to prevent him from enjoying himself, his joggers fell to the ground, completely exposing him (Underwear barely covering his arse) to a busy but watching, goggle eyed bank! When I bent down to pull his joggers up he took the opportunity to throw even more leaflets up into the air, laughing with glee as they floated down around my head.

I looked at the bank staff and apologised. One of them couldn’t stifle a laugh but indicated it was no problem. (It was easy for her to say!) However, two members of the public looked shocked and alarmed. An older woman, who must have been strong because she was carrying a giant dead grizzly bear across her shoulders, said “He should never be allowed in here, can’t you control him!” Whilst I was tying his joggers up I looked at her and calmly said, “I think you shouldn’t be Allowed in here, you should go and get yourself an education”. She looked flabbergasted 🀣

The gentleman who I was supporting was oblivious to everything, he merely smiled and clapped his hands, his eyes firmly on the leaflets. As luck would have it, we conveniently jumped the queue and were served at light speed!!

The woman who had complained in the bank was still muttering to her partner, with the bear silently growling, so I took the opportunity to wish her a very good day and left the bank, gently pulling my gentleman away from the tempting leaflets.

Although that incident was amusing, it was a situation that was predictable in a minority of public reaction. The point is, everyone is different, everyone is dealt a different set of life cards and most people have the ability to learn and grow as individuals. However, not everyone is lucky enough to be born without physical and mental disabilities, but everyone deserves to be treated with a modicum of respect and dignity, regardless of what they look like. So to the ignorant woman in the bank ‘Up yours’! And to those who haven’t got the sense or decency to know how to react and/or treat people less fortunate than themselves, ‘Get a life and grow up’!

47 thoughts on “Supporting The Vulnerable

  1. Why can’t we all find room in ourselves to see the flying leaflets as confetti and just share a moment of joy. They aren’t that difficult to straighten out again once the moment has passed. Thank you for this!

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Beautiful post, John. I worked with the same population for years. I found so much love and joy working with my clients. There were always those who ignored and were rude, but what bothered me almost more were those who commented that I was a saint for what I was doing or how brave I was when they’d see us out in public. Thank you for your beautiful memory of your client.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. But flying leaflets ARE a type of confetti?? πŸ˜‰
    I totally agree with you! I wish people would stay at home if they are going to be narrow minded, rude and judgmental! There just isn’t time for that!
    Funny story of my own? I had lost quite a bit of weight a few months back, and my laundry was piling up. So I ended up having to wear what were suddenly ‘too big’ black slacks out the one day. I didn’t have a belt, but my hips still seemed to be holding them up quite well. Seemed being the operative word.
    I went to buy our purified water, and had ten litres in each hand as I waddled my way to my car. With my hands being occupied, I couldn’t pull on the waistband of my pants. As I bent over at the car to put the bottles down, my pants slid down as well! I grabbed at them, and pulled them up… and of course quickly scanned the area to see who had seen. It seemed all clear, and then I spotted an older man sitting in the car parked next to me, in the backseat, trying his best not to laugh. I made eye contact, and I started laughing. The two of us laughed uncontrollably, and so loudly, that the lady in the water shop came out to see what was going on! It was BRILLIANT!
    So you see? It happens to the best of us πŸ˜›

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A beautiful and beautifully written story, John. I would have loved to have seen this man do this. The innocent joy would have made me happy for days. I applaud you for letting that woman know her behavior was unacceptable. He was blessed to have you caring for him!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Such a beautiful post, John. I found myself steaming after reading the part about the heartless older lady at the bank. It’s astonishing how ignorant and cruel even ADULTS can be. I admire you so much for taking care of this man and for understanding. And my heart goes out to all those who aren’t as fortunate and are treated like they’re not even human. God bless you for being the compassionate and understanding person you are. And Maggie is right, the world needs more people like you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m sorry to be negative, but stories like this really make me loathe humanity. I loathe the ones that react that way, especially the lady with the grizzly bear, talking about a man as if he was a dog. I’m SO GLAD you had a comeback for her. Not that it will open her eyes or cause her to pause…but who knows? Maybe it did.
    I know I should have empathy first. People are afraid of what they don’t understand, blah blah blah. But I’m no Zen master. And besides, they aren’t living down here with the rest of us, dealing with everybody’s crap, are they, the Zen masters? Generally not!
    Kudos for your great work. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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