by Alister Fuller
I am a bus driver from Melbourne. I used to do public transport before and on one trip, I remember well, I had these two teenage girls get into my bus. One of them had a big smile and my motto is simple, if you smile at me, then you need to have a chat with me. I want to know more about what is happening in your life.
So I asked her how is life treating her? Her reply was that she is Dyslexic. I apologised because I did not know what that meant. I heard the word before, but did not know its meaning. She told me that it is form of disability which is “hard of learning”. So I probed further and she said that it is difficult for her to focus in class on most subjects because she cannot understand what is being taught and discussed and hence she is way behind her peers. She has a lack of self-confidence and feels she is going to be left behind in society.
I did not come across such a condition before so I was thinking how I was going to respond and help this girl to understand that she has something to offer in society irrespective of her disability or condition.
So I told her, that you see, we are all good at something. For example, my passion is cooking. I can cook for 300 people with ease almost single handedly. I know how to do it and I am confident that I can do it because I have done it many times before. It takes a little planning a few short cuts, the right commercial kitchen, utencils, ingredients and few hours later, voila, there is a freshly made buffet dinner served for 300 people. That is my strengths apart from being a good competent bus driver.
My question to you is “What are your strengths”. I was shocked by her reply. She said she is good in singing. Now that is close to my heart too, because I play bass guitar in a band in Melbourne and I am surrounded by music. I said, Wow that is amazing. Can you sing for me? She said, “sure”. So she picked a Bruno Mars song and sang it loud, perfectly and in key. She had an amazing voice and tone. The lyrics were spot on and everything was perfect. So I asked her to sing another song and she did. I was amazed at her talent.
I told there, there you go, now you don’t have to worry about your dyslexia because you are going to become a singer. However I have one more question. How do you manage with Lyrics? Her answer was amazing. She said, I need to listen to the song once or twice and I will remember the lyrics forever. It comes very easily to me. Now that was her strengths.
I told her that she has a gift and that she should use her gifts and continue to develop her talent. One of the ways is to enter in local competitions and take part is any singing opportunities that come up from time to time. ‘Focus on a few songs that you enjoy singing and master them and get ready, because when the opportunity presents itself you can perform and make a big impact on the audience’. I even suggested to look through local news papers for planned events or even karaoke competitions. Maybe join or form a band. ‘Do everything that is going to help you become a singer. Even take the interest to learn an instrument like the piano or guitar which will help your singing career. It would come easier to you because you are interested in music. Start writing songs and lyrics. Whatever comes to your mind, write it down. Develop the art of writing lyrics. It does not have to be perfect, the more experience you get the better you will become at it. Another way is to take the lyrics of a song that you like and make up a totally different tune to those lyrics. See how you go at composing music’. These days we have our phones which have voice/video recorder to lock in all our ideas and creations. ‘Use technology, record yourself singing, sing in front of the mirror, in the shower, anywhere really. There are so many opportunities that will present itself if you are looking for them. The key is to be ready at any given time’.
She was very happy with all these suggestions and she said that she will pursue a musical career. I certainly put a smile on her face that day. I believe I gave her some hope that day that she will become a valued member of society irrespective of her disability.
I do meet and talk to many people in my travels, however some of the conversations are clear in my mind and this girls is one of them. I sincerely hope that she has taken my advice and I am confident that one day I will see her on the international stage.
No one is good at everything. However, we are all good at something. We should find that something and focus on it, nurture it, develop it, become the best at it, develop a passion for it, be ready to use it, display it, promote it, enjoy it, show it off at every opportunity. In my opinion we should all live like an artist. You see as a Driver, I can spot an artist a mile away. I remember driving one day and this guy gets into my bus. He had a Pink hat, green pant and a red shirt. All bright colours. His hat was not a normal hat it looked weird and different. I immediately knew that he was an artist. So I asked him what does he do? He told me that he is an artist and he paints on canvas. This happened many times. Artist are not afraid to dress, act, promote and live as a artist. That is the creativity that comes out of them. They literally live their creativity and they are not afraid to promote it and display it in everything they do.
I did come across another passenger. He had tattoos, metal bangles on his wrists, the shirt buttons were opened so we could see his chest and tattoos . He had a metal chain and cross for a pendant. One earring. He was old, lean and fit and had long hair. I immediately guessed that he was a musician and probably a rock star. So I asked him “Are you a rock star” his reply was “Yes, I am”. Then I asked him for the name of his band because I am interested in music and that it is rare that I get a rock star in my bus. He said that it is better if he does not answer that question. I respected his privacy and I said that is fine and I let him be.
I am doing a course to become a Disability Support Worker. I am learning so much about this important subject which prompted me to write this story. I strongly believe, that strengths-based approach should be promoted and encouraged in schools and society in general. We are not good at everything but we are all certainly good at something. So we should focus on that something and become the best at it which in turn helps us to become confident, valuable, contributing members of the society we live in and more often than not, very successful Financially, Creatively, Emotionally leaving a legacy for others to follow.
Throughout history there are too many examples of people who irrespective of their disability left their mark on this world creating a lasting legacy. One such example is Ludwig Van Beethoven who composed some of music’s greatest masterpieces while completely deaf. Another famous person was Abraham Lincoln who was thought to have Marfan Syndrome and later mental illness. Also president Roosevelt who won the 1932 presidential election in a landslide and became the first (and as of 2020 the only) physically disabled person to be President of the United States. We have to look beyond the disability and adopt a person-centred strengths-based approach so that all people are treated equal and can become valuable members of society.
A quote comes to mind. Dr. Wayne Dyer has 6 children. He was asked one day “How do you bring up a child?” His answer was “Catch them when they do something right”
Another quote comes to mind by Zig Ziglar on positive thinking “Positive thinking will not help you do anything, however Positive Thinking will help you do everything better than negative thinking will.”