Minneapolis, Here We Come!
And that got me to thinking of the one time that I did go to Minneapolis.
As a dog.
It was a good many years ago; I really can't remember just how many. But the great, big, every-three-years convention for Lutheran women was meeting there, and my blind Circle sister had been asked to be the "differently abled" representative from our Synod. The Synod would foot the bill. She was eager to accept, but was uncertain because her guide dog Connor was elderly and semi-retired. She knew he wasn't up to such a gig. But she accepted the request anyway, trusting God to handle things. Which God did. A letter came (I was her "reader" at the time so I knew about it as soon as she did!) from the national women's organization stating that all of the differently abled reps were entitled to bring along an all-expense-paid companion! Now it may have been that it was because I was reading her mail to her that Donna asked me to be the companion, but I don't think so. We had become a pretty good team. And, never having been to Minneapolis, I was delighted to accept.
Once our attendance was confirmed, Donna got right to work. Not only was she an official delegate who had to attend all of the business sessions and vote on things, she decided that it was imperative that all of the variously differently abled ladies must get together for a meeting! And she set about making that happen, getting this event on the official schedule. And that wasn't enough; as we read through the literature, we noticed that proposals for workshops were due at a particular time, and fierce advocate for the visually impaired, she decided she needed to offer a workshop on that topic. Complete with handouts.
We worked hard to get ready to go. The hand-out turned out to be a booklet, and we had to take plenty of copies. The differently-abled meeting had to be promoted to the other D.A. delegates. She had to be briefed on some of the issues that were up for discussion. We worked very hard.
I don't remember a thing about the plane flight or our arrival in Minneapolis. But I do remember that our hotel was connected to the convention center by a marvelous elevated, glassed-in tunnel kind of thing. We walked back and forth several times a day (and this was long before the invention of the Fitbit, darn it). The weather was lovely, so sometimes we walked outside.
I got Donna to the meetings, I got her to her workshop, and I got her to the event for the differently abled and that, friends, was a highlight of the trip! There were blind ladies and deaf ladies, and women with scooters and women with wheelchairs, and women with twisted bodies. All together in one space getting to know each other, learning about body issues other than their own. I'll always remember the one lady who came speeding into the room on a scooter, exclaiming, "Watch out! I don't have any brakes!" And, good dog that I was, I got Donna out of the path of destruction.
We synchronized our bladders (remember that old adage of go when you can, not when you have to) and I learned that people posing as guide dogs were entitled to the short line at the handicapped stalls in the rest room. We went to one of the first bagel chains and swooned over the offerings. We did it all, even to my making an executive decision the night Donna had not only voted on important issues but had presented her workshop to a SRO crowd; she was drained and we had only an hour and a half before her next commitment. I told her God had invented room service for just such a situation, and we called down to order our dinner which arrived after a much-needed but brief nap.
It was a great experience, and one I am grateful to have had. My eyes were opened wider to the obstacles differently abled people face. I loved meeting fellow Lutherans from all over the country, attending a workshop or two once I had Donna settled where she needed to be, and the limited exploration of a new city.
A guide dog keeps her person very close. A guide dog is constantly looking up for low-hanging branches. And down for discrepancies in the pathway. And to the side for god-know-what-might-come-along. I did all of these things. It was a strange combination of exhilarating and exhausting.
I came home a different person. And filled with new respect for Connor and all he did, uncomplainingly, for my friend.