Dr. Wolfelt quoted: "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, "I lived through this. I can take the next step that comes along." Eleanor Roosevelt.
I came home and said: "Steve, we've got to go to Ann Taylor in City Creek." As mentioned earlier, I was in City Creek on Tuesday and could not enter this store even with a supportive friend. I was surprised that I still felt fearful to return to the scene of this discriminatory experience. I try to live my life out of love and not from a place of fear. I recognized there was still some more work to be done inside me! As Steve, Cricket and I walked near Ann Taylor, I felt pretty anxious! I walked inside the store and was ready to turn around. Steve said we've got to at least walk past a sales associate :)! I walked to the back of the store, Steve described a few clothing items to me, and we walked out. He indicated that the sales associate acknowledged us by smiling. Not the most helpful to a blind person, but that sure beats being told to leave the store and then false statements issued.
I walked out of the store feeling a greater sense of freedom and choice. It is up to me whether I choose to go in or not. I left feeling like a burden had been lifted and instead of being fearful to return to the store it was simply now my choice. I choose not return to this store at this time. It was dark with just my phone, but we took a quick shot as I left feeling relieved :).
|(Wearing my Toms that I love!)|
The lemonade that I believe did occur:
They did make a token donation to Guide Dogs for the Blind and received literature on how to further educate their employees on the Americans with Disabilities Act. Although we have not heard back on how they have implemented this training, I certainly hope they have done so. I hope that this is just one of many ways they will support guide dog teams in the future.
Support. I received incredible personal support from my family, friends, and so many people that I did not even know. I received calls and emails from people that I hadn't seen in a while! This was an unexpected, special dose of lemonade! I hope when this happens to someone else, they will feel of that same support and know that there is a community behind them to support. Each of us are valued and have the right to be treated with respect and dignity. I am touched and proud by the actions of my own daughter that started this dialogue. My children grew up having experiences that could be challenging with their mom, but I have watched them channel it into such compassion and love for others. They are some of my best advocates which inspires me each day. Incredible lemonade.
Dialogue. We are talking about inclusion, the ADA, the rights of individuals with disabilities -- important topics. I am surprised that the conversation of this incident seems to continue. As mentioned, I have had some similar experiences over the past 15 years with a guide dog with more positive outcomes. After the first experience as a new guide dog handler, I recognized that part of our journey is to advocate and educate. I have embraced this opportunity. Since June when this last incident occurred, I have explained to many about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). By the various places this story became news, I believe this dialogue occurred all over the country. I may have mentioned that when we were in the NYC airport shortly after this happened, a woman came up to me and recognized me! At first I was uncomfortable about this attention on my story and then I was reminded this dialogue is about all of us. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is for each of us. In your lifetime, you or someone you know will be affected by a disability one way or the other and will be grateful for the ADA. It isn't something to be afraid of but rather something to embrace and make sure that we have inclusion in our society. People shared with me they tried to imagine what it would be like to be told to leave a store. Empathy leads to action. People have told me they are more committed to making sure they speak out when someone is in this position. There was a customer in the store with me the day I was told to leave. They didn't say a word. I have reflected since that time - would I have walked over to their aid and stood up for them? I am reminded on the importance of making that commitment and saying Yes, I will.
Pay it forward. Now that I have re-entered and left the store, I think I can say I have moved forward. If someone I am with wants to walk into this store, I will walk in with them without the fear I experienced this week. It hasn't been easy. I would say I am a fairly confident person who felt shaken on that day and the days/weeks following. It has taken some time and help to work through those emotions of fear from discrimination. I have spent some time sorting through the best way that I can make a difference in the future. When we aren't listened to, it can take some time to remember that we do indeed have a voice. My voice matters. You voice matters. If you need a voice count on Becky & Cricket to support, to advocate, and to write a letter as so many did for us.
It is interesting, with this experience I have reflected on a statement that one of my professors said 17 years ago in one of my first graduate courses on the Psychosocial Impacts of a Disability. She said - the biggest challenge isn't the disability but rather the societal implications of that disability. I remember sitting in my seat at Utah State University, (Go Aggies!) thinking really? Oh so true.
My responsibility is to further explore what kind of lemonade I can make in each day of my life. I encountered employees, a corporation that were not willing to listen to my voice or interested in my ideas of making lemonade. Sad. They missed an opportunity in my opinion. This experience has reminded me that the beautiful in the world far, far outweighs the ugly that is there. I believe we can educate, advocate, have a voice from a place of beauty. Cricket and I will continue to find the beautiful in each day and live our life from a place of love and feel a sense of relief that we completed one of the hardest, Cricket inside, that we have done when we walked back into that store.