Today I met one of my heroes.
He doesn't run, cycle, have diabetes or take amazing photographs (that I know of).
He drinks tea, not coffee. He likes movies and dogs. He thinks I look a lot like a girl named Emily.
His name is Dave Hingsburger and he fights for the little guy.
More importantly - he teaches them how to fight for themselves.
Dave teaches people to say no. Actually, he teaches them to say NO!! No to abuse. No to discrimination. No to people telling them how to feel or act.
Dave and his partner Joe came to our agency today. They came to teach a class on abuse to adults with a developmental disability. Because people with developmental disabilities are more likely to be abused than any other population.
And the majority of this abuse is done by staff who are supposedly there to support them.
Think about that for a moment and let the horror of it sink in.
So Dave and Joe came to our agency today to teach people that they have a voice. A right to say no. And a responsibility to speak up so that abuse stops.
Their two hour class was informative, hilarious and empowering. I was there to learn how to teach the material but my role was to sit quietly, not offer any answers and not help anyone.
Within minutes, Dave had built a sense of trust in the room. He empowered people to speak up, help their peers, share their feelings and stand up for themselves. It was extremely moving to watch. People with whom I work with every day surprised me. Over and over. Quiet people found their voice and said no. People who are easily upset or stressed participated happily in role plays. People who can't read offered to stand in front of the group and read - with help from a peer.
Today was every bit the day that I hoped it would be.
Dave and Joe were every bit as charming, entertaining, approachable and passionate as I hoped they would be.
The people who took the class were every bit as engaged, respectful and eager to learn as I hoped they might be.
And the staff left the session every bit as inspired as I hoped they would be.
It's nice when you set high standards for everyone and they exceed them by a mile.
Thank you Dave. Thank you Joe. You have reminded this girl why she does what she does. I hope we can carry the torch that has been passed to us with the care and respect it deserves.