13 March 2007

And sometimes just being is reason enough

I was just outside, enjoying some of the sunshine when a student walked by. I could tell by his gait that he was one of our "special services" students... Developmentally delayed. Mild retardation.

As he walked near me, I said "hi" - because that's what's expected of me as an instructor here, and because that's what I do. He muttered a "hi" in return and kept walking a few paces. Then he turned around.

"Um. Hi. Excuse me. Can I... Can I ask you two questions?"
"I have an assignment, I need to ask people their names and what they do."

So, he rummages through his backpack, pulls out a green sheet of paper with the words "Assignment 4: Meet new people." and three locations to put name and occupation.

I was the first person on his green sheet.

After he filled out my name and my occupation (Teacher), he thanked me for helping him, put his things in his backpack, and started walking away. He then turned around and introduced himself. As he walked away again, he dropped his pen. I stood up, picked up his pen, and called him by his name to let him know he had dropped it.

Just calling him by name made him smile. And I started to wonder if he felt invisible. Even around our campus, the typical students ignore the special services students. Occasionally mock them. Don't say hi. Don't bother to learn their names.

As I was walking back in to the office, I had a Shakespearean muse. Would Greg by any other name seem less invisible?

Did the simple act of remembering and calling him by name really create that small level of connection that so many of us take for granted?

Two minutes of my day. And I think that Greg impacted me by his willingness and bravery more than I could have imagined when I woke this morning.

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