September 1, 2013

A Beautiful Tipping Point

Back in 2008, a few of my daughters and I were visiting a new neighbor. They had three young children, ages seven, five and three.

The middle child, a girl, was reserved. No, that’s not it. She was shy. In the extreme. She was also blind. Her name was Ashley.

While her mother held her, I took Ashley's left hand in a gentle greeting and said, "Hi, Ashley. I'm Dennis. Nice to meet you."

The corners of her mouth smiled upward but she turned her head away from me, nestling her button nose and rosy cheeks into her mother's neck and shoulder.

My daughter, Whitney, who was 16 at the time, stood next to me.

I took Ashley's left hand again, and joined it with Whitney's right hand.

"Ashley, this is Whitney."

Whitney said, "Hello, Ashley? How are you?"

On hearing Whitney’s lilting voice of kindness, Ashley turned her torso away from her mother and extended both arms to Whitney. Whitney carried Ashley outside and introduced her to Alison and Amber.

I saw that Ashley's mother was overcome with a tranquil upwelling of emotion. I say tranquil, for she was so calm and untroubled, yet clearly there was more feeling than salt in her tears.

She quietly told me Ashley had never before gone to someone other than her parents.

That moment with Whitney was a first for Ashley.

Had her mother remained silent, well.... nothing. I simply wouldn’t have known the significance of Ashley's fairly leaping into Whitney's arms.

It was like a first step, a first word, an awakening. I had a sense of wonder. Awe. Reverence. Joy. Gratitude.

Whitney was the one who caught Ashley at Ashley's social "tipping point," at the precise moment when Ashley, for the first time in her developing life, elected to step out into the wider world.

My daughters told me that Ashley, while being toted around the front yard, was asking: "Where are we?" "Where are we going?" "What's out here?" "What do you see?"