I have already alluded to the fact that David spent a great deal of time watching elevators while we were on vacation. Suffice it to say, it was the highlight of his trip. I never imagined, however, that it would also be my favorite memory.
It seems like David spent countless hours in the hallway of our hotel, either in the lobby area directly outside of our room, or down by the first floor elevator adjacent to a side entrance. Although out of the way, this particular elevator was excruciatingly slow, so I did not allow David to press the call button but rather made him wait until other guests came to use the elevator and then he could watch the doors open and close.
So, there David would wait, steps from the elevator panel until he would see people approaching. Usually, they were engaged conversation, or on a cell phone, or generally not paying much attention until the precise moment when they started to raise an arm, finger extended to press that button and David would swoop in.
To this point, my story is not unique. Who hasn't been in an elevator with a kid who wanted to press the button? But for David, it is so much more. First, he would turn to look at his new found friends, smile and flash his big blue eyes. Then, he would return his attention to the elevator in anticipation of the car's arrival. It was as if David has just invited them to the gala of the century and could not wait for them to experience it with him. And, as usual, his enthusiasm was contagious.
A very few people would ignore David, like the group of three teenage boys. As they boarded the elevator, David made a second attempt to engage them by reaching his arm almost into the elevator, waving and saying in his best singsong voice, "BYYYEEE!" Still, no response. Annoyed by their behavior, David chastised them as the doors were closing, "Say THANK YOU," which really sounds more like "Say who-who" and again was lost on them.
Fortunately for David, however, most people would pay attention. They would return a smile, or try to engage David in conversation, which sometimes would lead to the obligatory explanation about why we were hanging out in the hallway in the first place.
We met some interesting people. There was the preschool teacher who had a student in her class with autism. I noticed that after she high fived David with her right hand, she switched sides to see if he would high five with his left hand, as well. There was also an elementary school teacher and we had a great two minute conversation about the lack of autism training available to teachers in her school district.
By the middle of our stay, we would be walking down the hall and it was not unusual to have people stop and say, "Hey, David" or "How's it going, David?" I really am amazed at the number of people that David met in our short stay at the hotel, but there was one friend in particular that I will never forget. I was on elevator duty at the time and sitting in the hall reading a book. David saw him coming first. The cool factor increased exponentially because he was pushing a cart and you know how David feels about anything with wheels. David watched as this man polished the stainless steel elevator doors and frame. David briefly considered trying to hijack the cart by giving it a tentative push which made our new friend smile and then said goodbye after the elevator had arrived and the doors were closing.
David and I saw this man the next day while we were swimming in the pool and he walked through the pool area, waving to David. We ran into him in the hallway once or twice more and then he stopped me the day before we were leaving and asked if it was okay to give something to David. In his hand he had a small, green toy motorcycle, apparently having noticed the fact that David likes wheels.
I do not know where he had gotten that toy. Maybe, it had been left behind by another family. Maybe, it belonged to his own son. It really doesn't matter. I made David say "who-who" but I was almost speechless, touched by this simple, surprising act of kindness.
I spend much of my time trying to help David reach his potential, to bring out the best in him but I am constantly reminded of how he, in turn, helps me to reach my full potential. He helps me to see things in other people that I might otherwise have ignored or overlooked. Had I met this man without David, this man whose name I do not even know, who was missing a front tooth and who worked in housekeeping at a hotel where I was saying, I am sorry to say that we may not have even made eye contact. At most, we would have smiled at each other and said "hello." We never would have connected and I most certainly would not still remember him and his kindness to David weeks later.