On Tuesday, Dave Hingsburger came to St. Catharines to speak about Disability Pride.
I first met Dave around this time last year when he and his partner Joe came to teach us how to teach others about abuse prevention. I wrote about that unforgettable experience here if you're interested.
Dave is a rare soul who challenges everyone he meets to look at the world through other people's eyes. The funny thing about Dave is that, even though his blog is the first thing I read every morning and even though I've had the opportunity to meet him a few times and interact with him over email - he surprises me every time I hear him speak.
When Dave is presenting, he always get there early. In fact, he's usually one of the first people in the room. He sets himself up at a table at the front with his notes and his tea (can't forget the tea!). He sits there quietly as the room fills with people. Sometimes people come up and quietly talk with him but, more often than not, he sits alone. Sometimes he looks up, sometimes he looks down. He always looks quiet and it's honestly hard to believe that he is the presenter. Hard to believe that, in a few more minutes, he's going to move people, anger people, make people laugh, cry and gasp in horror. Hard to believe that he's going to inspire several hundred people to take a look at themselves, at how they treat others and at how they want to be treated. Hard to believe he is, once again, going to challenge everyone to change the world.
Damn it, he surprises me every time.
He moves me every time.
He always makes me want to work harder and refuse to be complacent.
And I know what to expect from the man. I've heard him speak. I've read his stories.
On Tuesday, Dave spoke about disability pride.
He told some moving stories and made some very compelling arguments about how other groups of people have pride. Ever been to the Pride Parade in Toronto? I have, several times. Don't tell me they aren't proud of who they are.
Ever been to a multicultural celebration? I have. Don't tell me they aren't proud of who they are.
Dave argues that people with disabilities should be too. No more whispers of "he has Down Syndrome", no more whispers of "I work with people with disabilities". "ENOUGH!!" he roars. "We need to own this, we need to stand strong together, make change together and fight against hatred, prejudice and bigotry together!"
He's right, of course, and he's leading the movement.
And, once again, he's convinced this girl to join in the parade.