Posts Tagged ‘paul Gauthier’

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Yesterday I wheeled in the Port Moody Centennial parade from City Hall to Rocky Point Park (and back again). Our group, Mossom Creek Hatchery together with Noons Creek Hatchery joined displayed our our colourful fish to draw attention to the salmon and the streams. It would have been impossible for me to walk as I am too slow on my feet. I would not have been able to keep up the pace so I decided to join in and use my manual wheelchair. I am still, despite my sporadic use of it, in my opinion, fairly fast in my chair. Not sure of the hills and obstacles, I asked my amazing friend, Ruth Foster, to walk with me in case I should need a helping hand.

Asked if Rick Hansen is my inspiration to use my manual chair so independently, I have to answer honestly, “No!” Of course Rick is in inspirational guy. Personally I am inspired by Paul Gauthier, the man who kept me from being sent to a nursing home for the crime of being disabled; by Paul Caune, who fights with every mechanical breath to make sure that no one with a disability will ever be in that position; and Adam Frost and young Jessica Kruger, who managed to obtain me a sports wheelchair in weeks when a year of grant applications at G.F. Strong failed.

My hope is to continue to change the world in any way I can by helping others, through environmental stewardship, by advocating for people with disabilities, by working through government – one meme at a time. I am grateful for the opportunity.

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I very much enjoyed the experience of presenting. I realize, after the fact, just how much my left brain dominates.  Although I have a good understanding of how the artistic, right-brained individuals function, I am less tolerant of their function than I would like to be when it comes to what I perceive to be  “professional” events and functions. I am not sure if that is something I learned or if it is innate.

I wanted to (and was) on time for the meeting for the presenters. Part of me knew it would be foolish to worry about being on time for an “artsy event”  but that’s who I am (remember the left-brain dominance). The meeting did not occur and the person who called it did not arrive until forty-five minutes later. In fact the level of organization was just not the tight, structured,  Japanese, haiku-like form that is PechaKucha. So as I waited and watched for the show to begin, safely inhaling oxygen at 4 litres per minute (one of the presenters wore a LOT of fragrance), I experienced some cognitive dissonance. I so firmly believe that the production should be organized, should start on time, should be coordinated  professionally – after all people are paying to see the show. On the other hand the audience is happy, largely unaware that the media is not present, the photographer and film crew are absent, the meeting did not take place – they are more than happy.

Dissonance…tells more about me than the situation… “dissonance is reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying”.  I realize I have done all three. So while other people turn inward with nervousness, do I look outward…settling upon justification for the situation by noting that all went well despite the disorganization which I perceived?  The arts community pitched in and did what was needed. The audience was inspired. The focus was on the positive. The networking was amazing….and the feedback I received was great.

It seems that people were, on the whole,  inspired and motivated.

And when I reread “What makes a good PechaKucha” (it means chitchat in Japanese…) from the originator’s website, I know this whole thought process is something I need to continually work through…

“Good PechaKucha presentation are the ones that uncover the unexpected, unexpected talent, unexpected ideas. Some PechaKuchas tell great stories about a project or a trip. Some are incredibly personal, some are incredibly funny, but all are very different making each PechaKucha Night like ‘a box of chocolates’.”

It was a box of chocolates – there was something for everyone at PKN Coquitlam.

I was excited to see the PECHA KUCHA format for presentations. My tenant, Jay Peachy, was the very first presenter on Coquitlam’s very first PK night. He was brilliant. The whole event was exciting, fast-paced, interesting. Reminiscent of TED talks, but with the feeling of community and an artsy edge, I was immediately drawn in… I should do this, I thought.
So with Pecha Kucha VOLUME 4 looking for presenters, I volunteered, knowing what I wanted to say but not recognizing fully the limitations of the format. I am a teacher, thought I. Timing, meeting objectives, recognizing diverse listening styles…no problem…
As I began to prepare, I realized that I had a lot to say. Will it fit into the 20 x 20 format? PECHA KUCHA, the Japanese term for chitchat, is a simple idea (so they say). The presenter has 20 images with 20 seconds to speak to each image. The pace is rapid. OKAY, this works for design but I want to educate, elucidate, leave a powerful message that has my audience ready to, at the minimum, understand some changes they might need to make. But even better, I would like them to leave feeling the need to themselves advocate for change. Can I do that in less than seven minutes – telling my whole story with the pace imposed by the twenty second slide change? This really is a challenge. I am taking this art form and challenging it as well as myself to deliver.

That written, time to stop procrastinating and work on that timing…

I suppose being a teacher is being an advocate. One advocates for one’s students. We try to empower them in a system that denies rights to minors. We give them skills and confidence…anything we can to help them advocate for themselves but when they cannot we step in for them, fierce as mother bears.

And then there was the women’s movement. The supposed “third wave of feminism” taught me to challenge political structure and power holders while taking backup people with me. A lone voice is not as effective as the voice with many backers.

Ultimately, I became an advocate because in my greatest time of need, some people stepped (no, they wheeled) forward into my life and intervened, when a system powerful enough to put me in a nursing home for the crime of being disabled, chemically sensitive, and vocal threatened my freedom and my survival.

Paul Gauthier wheeled into my life and assured me that I was not being unreasonable when I requested scent-free care workers, or notice before nurse administrators arrived in my home. “If they tell you you’re being difficult,” he told me, “It just means you’re still alive.” How right he was. And how close I came to that precipice. When an institution, a system, a dangerous machine has control over your life…even those of us who are strong-willed and intelligent can be swept away. But thanks to that young man, and another wheeled advocate from the BC Paraplegic Association, Norman Haw, all that conspired to sweep me away failed. I emerged, stronger, independent, flourished…in control of my own life and care. So what else can I do but help others? And since I am not ALLOWED to work for pay, it is with pleasure that I try to help others navigate the medical system, or, as in my case, not be swallowed by it.

And as I give workshops, I often pay tribute to Paul without using his name. As it happens I was giving a workshop to a group of Medical Office Assistants on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and who was the organizer? Paul’s mother-in-law. She recognized the man I described from his good deeds, methinks…and she inquired if I knew her son-in-law. It’s a small world.

And I may not have thanked you in this decade, Mr. Gauthier, so thank you, once again!