(photo description: An artificial Christmas tree with bright lights glowing.)
Our Christmas tree is still up.
Pay attention to your thoughts about this fact.
Our Christmas tree is still up.
Look inside yourself to see if you have an opinion about this.
I'm asking you to do this because I tried a little experiment this week. I told several people, throughout the day, some who worked with people with disabilities and some who do not, some people had disabilities, some did not. I wanted to see the reactions of people to this fact. I found it surprisingly easy to slip this fact into conversation. I didn't simply announce it - that would have been socially odd. No, I just slipped it in, an interesting side note to a regular conversation.
I kept some data.
I do that kind of thing.
I found an interesting little fact in my little experiment. People who had the most control in their lives were the most likely to want to assert control in mine. Care providers, random non-disabled people - like the guy in the convenience store where I buy lottery tickets, people with physical disabilities who rode the bus with me going to work - 92 percent of these people suddenly started giving me their opinion, tinged with admonishment, about when a tree should come down. Of those 57 percent flat out told me that it was wrong to have a tree up so long after the holiday season. Of those 42 percent were quite heated about it, it inflamed their tempers.
Statistically people with intellectual disabilities responded differently. While 37 percent of them responded with some form of the instruction, 'You should take it down,' the majority said some version of 'that's great.' What was interesting was that people with intellectual disabilities were amazed at my FREEDOM to have my tree up, that no one was making me take it down. 'You get to keep your tree up as long as you want?' was the kind of shocked reply.
I found it interesting that most people, who have power in their lives, felt completely free to assert power in mine and people who have little power in their lives were astonished by the freedom I had and made no attempt to admonish or direct me to do differently than I wanted. In fact of the 63 percent who didn't attempt to convince me that it's time to take the tree down, 48 percent of those celebrated the fact that the tree was up. None of the other group did this.
This isn't very scientific, it wasn't a huge group, but it was interesting. Those with power, assert power, those without power did not. Those who thought they 'knew better' felt completely free to have an opinion and to feel that opinion was valid and needed to be shared, sometimes forcibly. Those who were used to the control of others, simply marvelled at the fact that I had control in my own life.
The weird thing about this, for me, is that any one has an opinion about the fact that we still have our Christmas tree up. It's something that has no effect on anyone else and simply, really, doesn't matter.
This is the problem we have in service provision. We have opinions on things that don't matter and we want those opinions heard and understood. Further, we want people to change and do things, things that ultimately don't matter, our way, the right way.
Some things don't matter.
Some things don't need your opinion.
Some things just are and as such should be left alone.
Why does anyone care about my tree in my home?
It doesn't matter.
We need to learn to separate things that matter from things that don't ... and then learn to keep our opinions to our selves while we celebrate the things that don't matter. The things that don't matter are the things that really matter to the people who do things differently.
Like having their Christmas tree up in the middle of January.