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Connecting on the Canada Line

December 1, 2011

It’s 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon and Chris and I are standing on the platform of the Canada line stop at Broadway/City hall station. “Where the heck is the train?” asks Chris, even though he knows when it’s coming. “Couple of minutes” I say, just to make conversation. Chris proceeds to test the echo in the tunnel by whooping loudly. He often does this when he is excited. Meanwhile, I am having a debate in my head about the usefulness of us riding the Canada Line. How is this going to benefit Chris, I wonder to myself. Are we wasting our time? Should we be pursuing something more constructive? I am lost in thought as the train rolls up. Chris makes a bee line for the front car.

I walk myself to the front car and take a seat three rows back from the nose of the train. Chris goes right to the front window and stands there, even though there are lots of seats. It’s clear to me how much he enjoys being here and it brings about a little change in my mood. As we roll down the line, Chris calls out the stops, making sure he says “King Edward Station” before the “pesky” computerized voice can do so. He does this for every station. At Marine Drive Station he turns to a couple and asks them if this is their first time riding on the new train, which it turns out it is. Chris asks them where they are going and upon hearing their response he tells them which stop they should get off at. It’s easy to see that Chris really likes to help other people out.

I continue to think. I wonder if I should do something. Here I am just sitting back and watching Chris talk with people on the Canada Line and I am doing nothing. Worse off, I am getting paid for it. I feel a little guilty. I wonder to myself if I should give Chris some advice on his social skills, maybe suggest to him to use appropriate interpersonal distance. In the past I may have gotten out of my seat and reminded him, but I know that doing so would only create tension with him. And rightfully so. I know I wouldn’t like it if someone commented to me that I was doing things wrong while I was in the middle of a conversation.  I struggle with the idea that maybe I’m not supposed to do anything at all. So here I am sitting on the train thinking about how I should be implementing some program and meanwhile Chris is succeeding in connecting with members of the public without any help from me.

Now maybe I think too much, but all of this passed through my head as we travelled the ten minutes from Broadway to Richmond. As I stepped off of the train into the sunlight at the terminus Richmond Centre Station I couldn’t help but feel pretty good. I often think to myself that I have much to learn from the people we support and the situations we find ourselves in, and today I learned a valuable lesson. It may not be about programs and strategies to help people get better, but about just being with a person in a situation they feel comfortable and confident. Chris knows the majority of the train and bus routes in the lower mainland and loves to ride them. He also loves to be helpful. When he is in such a place, he has no problems connecting with those around him. My job may be as simple as staying out of his way. I have a smile on my face as we walk from one end of the platform to the other and board the train, at what will be the new front. Chris again positions himself at the window, not unlike a streetcar conductor, and gets ready to do it all again.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Donna Bent permalink
    December 1, 2011 5:06 pm

    Thank so much for this simple yet moving piece. What a great reminder to us to just let folks be themselves. I smiled as I read it – thanks I needed a smile this morning!

  2. Susan McCalla permalink
    December 1, 2011 5:32 pm

    I love this story. Chad, your descriptions provide such a lovely picture of Chris and his personality. And what a delightful way for the public to get to know about the people we support.
    Great article!

    Susan McCalla, OT

  3. December 1, 2011 6:17 pm

    Thanks for the thoughtful article Chad. I’m sure this resonates with all of us 🙂

  4. Jerry Laidlaw permalink
    December 8, 2011 5:57 pm

    I loved reading this I love to here of people having fun

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