What a week I've had. A series of amazing meetings in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai - each one a little gem of perfection and good will, each one filling me with a sense of accomplishment and well-being. By the time I reached the airport in Mumbai on the final leg of the long journey - homeward bound at last! - I was sailing. Sitting in a coffee shop by the departure gate, I had to keep hugging myself or I would have been squealing with delight.
Across the concourse, I watched a boy walking toward me. He was about 13 and he was moving carefully, managing to roll his suitcase behind him while clutching a boarding pass in his other hand, keeping an eye on the people going past him, noting the three stairs he would soon have to go down, navigating around a pillar and keeping his parents well in view - all at the same time.
Even from a distance, I could see that he was one of ours. I watched him with respect and a strange sort of pride: I don't know him or his parents and unless the fates conspire, we will probably never meet; but I was proud of him nonetheless. I could see how the simple tasks we take for granted when traveling were a challenge for him and I could guess how hard he must have worked to master them.
And I was struck, as I so often am, by how lucky we are - those of us who are a part of the world of special needs. We can put our "accomplishments" in perspective because we work with people for whom every hour of the light and dark are miracles and we know that theirs are the true achievements, born of ceaseless endeavor. We can cope with the inevitable bad weeks that will follow the good like this one just past because we've seen in real life the meaning of determination, perseverance and triumph. And we can admit to weakness and not feel ashamed because we get our inspiration from people - their weaknesses on display for all to see - who go on astounding us with their power, grace and strength.
I watched that boy with pride and emotion, moved beyond words to be a part of his world, glad beyond telling to be able to share his story.
Photos by Erin Steigerwalt (C) Erin Steigerwalt