|photo by Leah M. Johnson|
My daughter and I are at Seattle Center on the bright kind of fall day that makes colors pop, where the air feels soft and people are quiet as the rustling leaves.
After a walk around the fountain, through the garden past the Chihuly glass and along the Pavilion, we’re stopped by the sound of bagpipes.
“Oh,” my daughter informs me, besides everything else that’s going on here this weekend–Croatia Fest and a Lego brick convention–there’s a Buddy Walk.
What’s a Buddy Walk?
“Well, look at that train of people, mom.”
Behind the bagpipes is a multicolored parade of all ages, colors and abilities, walking quietly, holding signs and trailing peacefully behind the bagpipes, a grown up game of Follow the Leader.
I notice a woman in a bright orange “Be a Buddy” t-shirt taking a photo with her iphone.
My daughter and I walk over and I start up a conversation.
“So what’s this all about?”
“Well, we’re part of a nationwide movement to raise awareness and acceptance for people with Down Syndrome.”
I see moms and dads holding the hands of young Down Syndrome children. Some adults push family members and friends and wheelchairs. Other paraders amble along in motorized chairs.
I tell orange t-shirt lady that I’ve been working with children with Special Needs for about 5 years.
“This is a wonderful occasion,” I remark. How great to see this kind of community support from so many able-bodied family members and friends, welcoming and accepting people with disabilities.”
She brags to me about her own students (she’s a teacher, too). She works with high school aged kids, who, in spite of their challenges, are Key Club members among other things. A story about their involvement at their school is heartwarming and encouraging. You can tell how proud she is.
My daughter and I stand at the edge of the path as observers, continuing to make small talk. My arms folded across my chest, I turn to bid the teacher farewell.
“Nice to meet you,” she says. “Thanks for coming by.” And off we go.
“Mom, she said ‘nice to meet you’ and you didn’t even introduce yourself or me.”
“Oh. Oh. No, I didn’t. I’m so sorry.”
I pondered my faux pas as we traced the other walkways, stopping here and there on a bench, or chatted on the grass in the sunshine.
It made me think of what it’s like to just stand on the sidelines and watch, motionless, chatting at the air, disengaged from the activity, not really entering into it.
The people I saw were walking through public territory, pounding the pavement to demonstrate their commitment to their principles.
They were confident the blacktop belonged to them, too, and their claim was evident as they just moved forward.
No loud fanfare, no shouting, just the bagpipes announcing their coming
In the book of Deuteronomy Moses’ speech in chapter 8 reminds the children of Israel whose they are and who they represent, the God they serve and most importantly, where they are going.
Chapter 8 verse 6 says,