Last night was Namine’s last dance class before her recital. But before that, she had a piano recital.
Namine, like any child, has her days where she doesn’t want to practice piano. But more often than not, she’s enthusiastic about playing, and there’s never a day when she doesn’t want to go to her lessons. She worked hard at learning her two recital songs, and I think her efforts are plain to see.
As soon as Namine was done playing her songs, we had to dash over to dance class. Tonight was the last lesson before her recital, so we didn’t want to miss it. (We still had time to return to the piano recital afterward in order to hear the remainder of the students’ music.)
The class’s behavior was the very antithesis of what it was last week. All the girls were very focused, and did a good job of running through the recital dance.
Having now completed the class — all but for the recital itself, of course — the girls each received a certificate. Namine squealed, as she is wont to do in excitement, and thanked her teacher “very, very, very much.”
As Namine headed out of the room, with me close behind her, Namine’s teacher told me, “She’s such an inspiration.” I nodded my agreement, but kept to myself the larger dialog which occurred in my head.
Being involved as I have been to the special needs community, I recognize this statement as being “ableist.” (I will admit that most of said experience has occurred on the Internet, where people seem to take offense at things a little bit easier than they do out in the real world.) The reason for the teacher’s statement would seem to be because Namine uses a wheelchair and walker. It’s for that same reason that I’ve gotten called out on calling Namine my hero.
It’s important to note that I don’t — and didn’t — take offense. To the contrary, I agree with the teacher that Namine is an inspiration, and it’s not because she’s in a wheelchair. It’s not because of some condition she has little to no control over. (Namine does what she can to strengthen her legs, in and out of therapy, but her legs don’t always follow what her mind tells them.) Rather, she’s an inspiration because of what she does, about what she commits to. She doesn’t accept that things are the way they are, so why bother trying. No, she takes that situation and says, I don’t care. I’m going to do this, and I’m not going to give up. Ever.
The perfect example of this is her dance class itself. When Namine took dance two years ago, she did it in her wheelchair. But this time around, she decided that she was going to do it in her walker, standing up. She didn’t know how it would turn out. None of us did. That didn’t matter to Namine. It was reason enough that she wanted to dance. She told me, “I don’t want to sit and wheel, I always sit and wheel. I want to stand. I want to dance.”
And dance she has, does, and will continue to do.