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Reader Shares Personal “On Aisle 9” Moment

April 17, 2011

Note from Sarena: Few things comfort me more than when someone calls, emails or writes us about the eye-opening effect the Judgment-Free Zone article had on their perception.  We’ve heard countless times, “I don’t look at a screaming child the same way,” and “I saw a child having a meltdown but I didn’t intensify the atmosphere with comments or strange looks,” and “I’m reading more about Autism because children are being diagnosed at an alarming rate” and “I’m On Aisle 9 too, I have a family member/friend with special needs.”

Recently, I received a text message that read, Just had an awesome On Aisle 9 experience!  Within just a few minutes of returning Ms. Corbin’s call, I was shedding tears of gratefulness.  I asked Ms. Corbin to share her story with our OA9 family. She graciously agreed without hesitation.  Here is the story in her words:


On Aisle 9!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Today I had one of the best On Aisle 9 Experiences! I was invited to attend an Open House for the REACH Program at the College of Charleston. [The R.E.A.C.H. (Realizing Educational and Career Hopes) program at the College of Charleston is a four-year inclusive program for students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities.] I thought this would be a typical Open House that I have attended so many times before on campus you know walking through offices, shaking hands, reading name tags and munching on cheese and crackers and some weird-looking appetizers that you probably don’t know how to pronounce. Instead, I walked into a conference room filled with parents, their children (who are prospective students) and the REACH Ambassadors.

Before I could identify any familiar faces in the room, I made eye contact with one young man; as soon as his eyes connected with mine he literally made a bee line over to me. He bumped 3 people out of the way, caused a Dean to drop his food, and greeted with me with the most boisterous but pleasant greeting that I have ever received. 

“Hey I know your Worship!!!!!! I know your worship!! FIYAH FIYAH!! You go to a church around here! I know your worship!” Immediately I was startled and taken back. Everyone in the room looked at this young man. Several people tried to even quiet him down. With a smile, I reached my arm around his shoulders and simply said, “Really, let’s figure out how you met me.”  We engaged in a dialogue and he proceeded to tell me that he witnessed me in a service just days before and was proud to say that he knew my worship. This young man looked past any of my imperfections. He didn’t notice that in my haste to leave home this morning that I had on mismatched stud earrings. He didn’t notice how tired my eyes were because of a restless night. This young man looked into my eyes and even my soul and recounted what he remembered days before.  Simply taking the time to be in that moment with him, blessed me beyond belief. Being in this 4-minute “moment” taught me an invaluable lesson that I will always remember–

Allow the ones we love to have their moment and to be there for them and go in that moment as they paint a vivid picture with vibrant colors.

I learned after the conversation that he loves church but his mom was unable to attend services because she works on Sundays.  I volunteered to take him to church services with me in the Fall once he enrolls at the College of Charleston. I later found out his name was Michael and when I told his mom that,  he smiled the brightest smile ever. Michael taught me that no matter how tired I may be after a long day at work that when my fiance’ calls with GREAT news, to simply listen attentively and be in that moment with him. He taught me that when my dad calls with an update on a MASH episode that I should simply smile and listen as if I had not seen the episode years before, because there may have been something that I missed. I was on Aisle 9 today and I am grateful for Michael allowing me the pleasure to be there with him.

Deronda Corbin

Program Director for Diversity, College of Charleston

Charleston, SC

The R.E.A.C.H. (Realizing Educational and Career Hopes) program at the College of Charleston is a four-year inclusive program for students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities.  The purpose of the program is to provide the opportunity for all students to realize their intellectual and personal potential, and to become responsible, productive members of society.  REACH students participate in the academic, residential, social, and cultural experiences offered by the College, with appropriate support for success.  Our first REACH students matriculated in the Fall of  2010. 

The REACH program offers an opportunity for the College to extend its mission of providing extensive credit and non-credit programs to students whose quality of life and opportunities to contribute to society hinge on access to educational opportunities in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. The College of Charleston is eager to fill a much-needed void by meeting the growing educational demands of this group of individuals, and at the same time increase diversity on a campus that is rooted in the liberal arts philosophy of embracing diversity and forward-thinking for a better society.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 19, 2011 3:11 pm

    mindful – strive for it every day

  2. Adrian Grimes permalink
    April 19, 2011 1:31 pm

    This article reminds me of what is important, what should be cherished and what’s not that big of a deal. Thank you.

  3. LaDonna Davis permalink
    April 18, 2011 11:07 pm

    All I can say is, “WOW!” Thanks for this reminder to stay in the moment. Awesome!

  4. Jarrett permalink
    April 18, 2011 6:01 am

    Thank you for the reflection. There are so many things I have gleaned from this post. Thank you for sharing.

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