Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Sign Lady

I'm trying not to rush through the stories of the unique individuals who live here and what they have to bring to the world, but one stands out for the effect it's had on me much more than any other. And I must admit I'm so sensitive to the person's situation that I'm going to ask her if I can have her permission to mention it before I "publish" this. If you are reading this, I got it.

I call her the sign lady. Kris and I were given two names of sign makers who would be helpful to use for Kris' business in Port Gamble (she's moving her quilt store to the old Stables building, but that is MANY stories, to be told later). Not a-typically the lady chose the lady, and we went to visit the business she shares with her husband.

She began the session by astounding me with her candor. "Hi. I'm Mollie. I sound like I have an accent, but I really don't. It's because I have MS. Now lets look at some sign possibilities for you." I think of myself as being sensitive to people with disabilities (which some diseases or conditions are) because I suffer from one myself, Parkinson's Disease. (Why do they call it a "disease"? I'm not contagious.) But I've never met anyone who would state their situation as bluntly as Mollie did, not to gain sympathy, not to make herself stand out because of it, but simply to state in her own way "I have a disability, but it's not going to get in our way, so get used to it, because that's just the way I am."

I wanted to express my gratitude for showing a new attitude, but I was so taken aback that it was a few weeks before I returned to thank her for showing me a new way to approach my increasingly visible condition. How should I approach people in public to let them know that I have a condition that they may think makes me a "weakling?" since I no doubt will end up in a wheel chair … or worse. I've been proud of thinking I've been hiding it for 13 years, only to be told by a young, vibrant lady through her demeanor "Why hide it? It's what you are. Don't be ashamed; don't be proud. Just let the world know that it is part of what you are and get on with your life."

Thirteen years of living in a quandary, settled by thirteen seconds of demonstration from Mollie.
Now I'm not sure, but I think if Mollie lived in the big city she might have a different attitude. When you have to compete HARD and RUTHLESS for your business it is difficult to admit there is anything "weak" in your existence. But in a town as small as Port Gamble, you can't hide what you are, you can only BE what you are. And I'm finding this to be incredibly refreshing. The lack of pretense here is healthy and seems universally to be the case among those who are a part of this place.

Mollie and her husband live a block away in Port Gamble. I'm hoping the four of us will be good friends. Like so many others here, they have a lot to offer, if you let them.


Shirley said...

How quickly we forget how exposure to new surroundings and new people in our lives can change our outlook on life.

Mollie said...

Just a quick little disclaimer on the photos, as we want to give proper credit...Orbea Sign Company only actually made the signs that Pete & I appear in photo with. The directional sign was produced by Chinook Signs, another great sign shop in the area.

We would like to thank you. It is truly an overwhelming and humbling feeling to know that you have impacted someones life in a positive way. So that being said ~ please know that you too have made an impact on us. It is sometimes easy to forget that we can not live in fear ~ fear of what might happen tomorrow, or what you might not be able to do, fear of what others may think of you. We can not allow ourselves to live in fear, as it is possibly more debilitating than any "disease" could ever be.
I do not see you as being fearful at all. You are actively making friends, exploring your new surroundings, and challenging neighbors to bake-offs. It takes a lot of courage to share your thoughts and ideas on such a public stage as the Internet.
We welcome you and Kris to Port Gamble and hope that you find that the "gamble" will pay off.