Thursday, August 31, 2017


Two experiences I recently had converged in my mind to make a bigger point.

Experience one: over the weekend I read an obituary of someone I had known in my days growing up in the northeast kingdom. I’ll call him “Sam.” When I was a kid, Sam was one of the town characters (but only one of many). Sam was everybody’s friend. He would always wave to everyone he saw on the street, and had a kind word for all. Sam was part of every civic group and club and marched in all of the parades.

It didn’t matter then, but I realize now that Sam had an intellectual disability. It didn’t matter then because nobody talked about Sam that way. He was part of our community, for better or worse (mostly better), and was accepted for who he was, the same as everyone else. If considerations had to be made to accommodate Sam, people just made them without ordeal.

Experience two: I mentioned last week that I recently returned from a European vacation/bike trip. During a tour of one of the mediaeval towns we rode our bikes through, our tour guide offered an unsolicited piece of information. He pointed out that we wouldn’t see any homeless people on the streets of his city. He stated emphatically that it was because his fellow citizens wouldn’t allow people to be homeless – that the community was committed to ensuring everyone had a roof over his or her head.

In both examples above, I saw a strong commitment to inclusion, a commitment that wasn’t artificially generated but instead came from a basic belief that all citizens are fully expected to be fully part of their community.

Which brings me to my bigger point.

The examples above are of genuine community inclusion existing without the support or input of vast bureaucratic systems. While I’m not na├»ve (I know Sam’s level of support needs was lower than some, and not every community is so willing to address its homeless problem so completely), I can’t help wonder sometimes if the system we have created to serve our fellow community members with I/DD makes what should be simple overly complex. I also can’t help wonder sometimes if we have barely evolved at all – if communities have already demonstrated repeatedly that folks with different needs can still be active and productive in their homes and their communities, then why do we continue the struggle of trying to recreate that wheel.

And most importantly, since we have demonstrated that we can make it work, then money should never be an excuse for not making it happen. “We can’t afford it” is unacceptable. This is about taking care of each other. I will not accept that we can’t do this, certainly not using finances as an excuse.

Then again, what do I know?

1 comment:

  1. This post reminds me of the scenes we saw play out in the recent flooding in Houston from Hurricane Harvey. We saw civilians risking their lives to save people they didn't even know, and people lining up around the block to volunteer. The lingering question for me is: how will people identify the needs of their community and heroically support their neighbors without a crisis to nudge and guide them?