Friday, February 24, 2012

Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!

Upon arriving at Walmart on Highway 54, I felt a bit uncomfortable, even self-conscious, and I’ll admit I had a fleeting thought to myself: Maybe, if I don’t hang too close, people won’t associate me with this group.  After all, I rationalized, I am suppose to observe how this all is done.  Fortunately, I caught myself and shook it off, realizing it as a reflection of antiquated attitudinal behavior.  Any reservation I had instantly faded once inside Walmart’s doors. The Protector within me kicked in, and my “Go ahead, make my day” trigger itched to defend against anyone who had something negative to say to or about these ladies.  My “Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!” alarm also sounded to remind me I represent Wendell Foster’s Campus (WFC).  I took a deep breath as we moved through the store. 

Ashley and Roslyn, Direct Support Providers (DSP’s) that work one-on-one with many of the individuals we serve at WFC, inspired me as they interacted and involved Connie and Lisa in the grocery shopping.  Ashley pushed Lisa in her wheelchair; Roslyn pushed Connie in hers.  Who’s pushing the grocery cart?  I wondered, and immediately volunteered.  Ashley or Roslyn could’ve, would’ve managed without me.  My original intention for the day was to simply observe but being a hands-on kind of gal, I couldn’t resist jumping in to do my part.
Interestingly, I didn’t need to observe anything to understand what Connie, Lisa, and others with developmental disabilities experience when out in the community.  Simply being involved with the group allowed me to experience it firsthand.   Most people were nice, smiled at us and carried on with their business like any of us would.  But a couple of interactions stood out.

One well-put-together woman saw us coming down her aisle, and immediately looked away as if searching for something on a shelf.  Intentional or coincidental?  As much as I like to give people the benefit of doubt, my gut said, intentional.  Ironically, this attractive woman couldn’t avoid us during the shopping excursion for we kept running into her in every grocery aisle.  I can’t be 100% sure, but I sensed disapproval from her.  I have heard people say “they shouldn’t drag those people around like that” or “they don’t know what’s going on; why don’t they leave them at home.  Sadly, this attitude is not uncommon.  A few older shoppers looked at Connie and Lisa as we passed by; at least they didn’t pretend to not see us.  There was one older lady at whom I smiled and said “hello” as we passed, but she did not respond to me.  My greeting was audible and I looked her in the eye.  She kept on walking.  I certainly felt ignored and dismissed.
Why does WFC take Connie and Lisa, and other members of the SCL program out to Walmart and other places?  Do they really know what’s going on?  These same questions came to my mind too, but with this one trip I realized my ignorance.  Every weekend, Connie makes a dessert for her housemates, and on this shopping trip, she picked the flavor of her next cake, chocolate (a gal after my own heart!).  While I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the goings-on of Walmart, Lisa actually benefits from the sensory stimulation it offers.  Upon meeting her, she seemed “out of it” which is common for those with a sensory deficit.  Walmart offers her a sensorial experience with its bright light, sounds of intercom announcements, the crowd noise, etc.  Lisa became more alert and attentive to her surroundings while we were in the store. 

In hindsight, I’m not sure what I was afraid of going into the store.  The five of us (Greta went with another group) had a good time, and bowling was next on the day’s agenda.  Bowling?  My curiosity was peaked for I had no earthly idea what that would look like, and am I glad I didn’t miss it!

In the Next Blog Entry:  The King Pins of WFC - For ten frames, all would watch in anticipation as the ball rolled slowly down the lane  . . . .”

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