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I began this journey in working with people with disabilities last century, it was 1999. I think there was one mobile phone to be shared among 10 of us. It was to be taken out when ‘accessing the community. Phones were for emergency use only, no data. no internet no music, no-nonsense, no camera, no internet banking. True, fact check that if you must 🙂

I was 25, I had 2 kids under 2 and considered myself to be capable and caring with a strong desire to help & support people. One of my first solo shifts was with a woman – maybe in late 30’s/early 40’s let’s call her Jill, she had downs syndrome. The task was ‘ banking’ we had an hour. It was only 5 min drive to town, I’m wondering what else we might do. I was informed she had no kneecaps but I didn’t think much more. No walking aid was supplied, she got out of the car & we proceeded the journey to the bank. The next 45 min, was to be one of the biggest moments in my career.

Jill shuffled very very slowly along the path to the bank. In this moment, my whole world jolted, it was slow-motion action – it was somewhat comedic. No, she didn’t fall. Yes, what actually happened was a realisation (real – eyes).  I was being asked to BE totally in the moment, I walked at this new walking pace; not behind and not infront, side by side. More senses kicked in yes ‘smell the roses, Kristi!’ I softened, smiled and never looked back.

Inside the bank, the teller handed Jill her cash- my instinct was to help her put it away into her purse 1- wasn’t sure of her fine motor skills 2 There was a queue of people 3 I didn’t yet know her ritual- I watched the teller, the teller watched Jill &then I knew to also ‘wait and watch’. Jill kissed every note and placed it in her purse one by one. Her words were few but often difficult to express but I clearly heard  ‘Beer, and Kerry’. Her money and it’s purpose was connected to people/place this had so much meaning to her AND the gratitude factor was off the scale – and beautiful.

I always thought this lesson/story taught me skills for the work I do – patience, allowing others to do for themselves.

Now 22 years later, what’s changed-she has since passed over and her legacy as i understand it – was to teach others the little moments are the big moments.

The breadth + the gravity of this was big for me.

I too will also leave a legacy and whilst I cant interpret it now, I hope it will be ‘she gave others a voice, a go, and she gave it her all because she believed in equality and she didnt give up – she adapted and innovated with the times. She knew who she was, embraced what she wanted and lived and loved with her whole heart.

Today I help people to use technology albeit devices/apps/software with purpose so it holds value and meaning. Technology can and does change lives and should not be taken for granted. It’s a skill not everyone has and without a doubt it can be a lifeline for some in 2021.

I do miss the old days of taking an hour to achieve ‘banking’ but equally, there are now more ways to stay connected to others and or the community. I’m fortunate I can and do appreciate the old, and the new and can sit with others until they get it too.

Thank you Jill, for the hour of power

For it is never forgotten

Photo Credit: About Regional, NSW/ACT