Recently as I was walking across a series of interconnected pedestrian crossings at Glasgow airport, I became aware of a group of four people coming in the opposite direction: three women, one of whom was pushing a young man in a wheelchair. The young man caught my attention because he started gesturing excitedly, his right arm tracing a large arc in the air, as he twisted himself round and leaned out of his chair to provide extra emphasis to a strong, straight-armed pointing gesture to his left.
As I looked towards where he was pointing, I noticed that the three women stopped immediately, took out their phones and turned to the left, and started taking photos or perhaps video of what was a very beautiful, soft rainbow arching across the grey sky and the dreary terminal building. None of them spoke, and this brief episode seemed quite natural and relaxed. When I reached the other side of the crossings, I turned round and they were still there, gathered in a companiable huddle, looking at the rainbow.
I don’t know these people of course, but it seemed evident to me that there was a lot of shared, unspoken understanding in that simple episode, and that the three women’s immediate and unquestioning response to the young man’s epic point spoke of genuine care.
This incident reminded me of a father and young adult son (I believe with a learning disability) I used to see in the local woods where I walk the dog. They would walk quickly, arm-in-arm, the son wearing a warm, padded coat, of a rich, emerald green. There was something about the closeness of their demeanour, the purposeful pace of their walking, as well as this beautiful green coat, that resonated love.
These incidents contrast starkly with other occurrences over the years, either observed or experienced closer to home, when those expected to care for disabled individuals do little of the sort. I don’t believe that care or love can only exist in families (a concept in itself that should be interpreted broadly), but I do consider that if care is absent, and if the disabled person is not seen as an equal partner in the group, whose aims and intentions are valued and respected, then no good can come of it. Love can take many forms, and caring is itself a form of love, and we should expect nothing less for all members of society.