Thursday, August 24, 2017

Built To Last

I returned to work this Monday after a two week vacation in Europe, the highlight of which was a bicycle trip through Croatia. As my mind anticipates the shift from vacation mode back into work mode, I wanted to share some thoughts about my experience, and (of course) how I connected that experience with the work we do at Imagine!.

I know I’m not covering any new ground by saying one of the most amazing things about Europe is the sense of history one feels there. The history of the United States of America is an exercise in brevity by comparison (I say this recognizing that the history of the North American continent goes back way beyond just the US period, but I’m just focusing on the history of our nation here).

It isn’t just a “sense” of history one experiences in Europe. Throughout my travels, I encountered building after building that were centuries old, tangible and touchable examples of the depth and breadth of the European continent’s long history.

I found myself wondering about the architects and builders who created those buildings. I assume that when they were going about their work, they had in mind that the structures they built would be permanent. They weren’t building something to last years, or decades at best, they were building them to be around for as close to forever as possible. That commitment shows in the fact that so many of these ancient buildings still remain standing today, having endured not only the usual wear and tear of weather and use, but also multiple destructive wars.

I wish the architects and builders of our system of funding and serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) had some sense of permanency or at least sustainability in mind where solid structure can be retrofitted with modern day improvements. Sadly, that has never been the case. Change is the only constant in our world. Administrations and administrators come and go and the communities continue to ask for sustainability. This results in providers compelled to ride a roller coaster of changing approaches and funding mechanisms, or floating in a shifting sea of rules and regulations.

To be clear, when I say building something permanent, I don’t mean that nothing can ever change. Even in some of the oldest mediaeval towns I visited, towns built centuries ago surrounded by walls designed to keep invaders at bay, there were obvious modern touches. There were bike lanes, public transportation, and (thank goodness) modern indoor plumbing, electricity and internet. But the historic foundations remained, intact and serving as a testament to the idea that permanence is a noble aspiration.

I would like to see those same aspirations applied to our field. A permanent solid foundation upon which we can truly build a world of opportunity for all abilities. We may need to create it ourselves from scratch, but if it can allow our fellow citizens with I/DD to be fully participating members of our community now and far into the future, then it will be worth it.

Then again, what do I know?

No comments:

Post a Comment