Thursday, May 1, 2014

Makin’ Mischief

I don’t think I will create much controversy if I make the statement that “Calvin and Hobbes” was one of the best, if not the best, comic strips of all time. For the three of you out there who have never heard of it, the strip followed the humorous antics of Calvin, a mischievous and adventurous six-year-old boy, and Hobbes, his tolerant and much wiser stuffed tiger.

In my opinion, much of the success of the strip derived from Calvin’s mischief making. The “real world” confounded Calvin, and he not only preferred his own private version of reality, but went out of his way to try to make the real world fit into his own particular version of reality. Often his efforts conflicted with the many authority figures in his life, who were exasperated by his efforts to shape the world to fit his needs. But we readers would delight in his antics.

I think most of us feel a certain affinity with Calvin. We’d like to make the world bend to our needs. Calvin’s mischief making often exposed the absurdities of the rules (both explicit and implicit) that we all face in our everyday lives, often to the point of frustration. Calvin’s antics pushed the envelope while never leading to any real harm (other than the sting of the occasional snowball to the head). They were creative and attracted attention to the little injustices in life.

I think most of us secretly wish that we were brave enough to go beyond the boundaries as often, and as enthusiastically, as Calvin did. But few of us do. I think those of us in the field of serving individuals with intellectual disabilities could use a little more Calvin-style mischief. We need someone brave enough to draw attention to some of the absurdities that govern our services, as well as to the possibilities that may exist beyond what we are doing now. Someone willing to expose and explore the alternatives. Someone who knows the rules but also knows when, where, how, and why to step outside of those rules.

Is there risk in mischief? Yes, of course. But the rewards are potentially far greater – better services, more people-centered options, and greater freedom and independence for those we serve. In our world, it seems like it is not OK to engage in a little mischief. I think it should be OK. We all need to lighten up a little and indulge our inner Calvins a bit more. The results could be surprisingly productive.

Then again, what do I know?

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