Friday, May 09, 2008

Under A Stack

I finally talked yesterday with a high who's fairly high up in the heirarchy of his organization. He'd left me a message over a week ago. I'd written the message down, fully intending on calling back that day, and didn't. Over the course of that day the message pad must have gotten moved in a shuffle of paper and once covered by other papers the paper and the message it carried were lost to me forever.

Yesterday I look at my desk objectively. It's a muddle of papers, journals (read and unread) - an unattractive jumble that reflects too well my inner jumble. Being 'organizationally impaired' is for me more disabling than anything to do with the wheelchair. Rose had made a comment or two. Joe had made a comment or two. Manuela would just glance at the mess, up and me and back at the mess. Non verbal communication at it's best. Enough with the comments, said and unsaid. I cleaned up the desk.

In doing so I found the message. I felt immediately bad that over a week had passed but I knew him and he knew me so he wouldn't be 'surprised' that I'd misplaced a note on my desk. So I called. He and I go back nearly 30 years and I explained my situtation when apologizing. I like surprising people with the truth. "Gosh, I've been so busy ..." would have worked. But, "Was cleaning my desk and found the message to call you under a tumble of paper ..." has the sound of honesty and that's a better place to start.

Turns out that he'd been meeting with others in his agency about the fact that staff more often breed dependancy than they encourage independance. That people with disabilities should expect more in service, they should expect that the staff who work with them have the goal of individuation and freedom not subordination and control. He was quick to say that he didn't think that staff were malicious or mean spirited but that the heirarchy established within the very relationship between care provider and care recipient lends itself to that kind of problem.

So we talked about what could be done. He believed that we needed to make the problem visible. That once the staff 'saw' the situation they would be automatically willing to look at rectifying it. I believe this too. So we talked about what my role could be in all this.

As we talked part of my mind was singing the Hallelujah Chorus. It is so encouraging to me when agencies take the time to think through the inherent problems in a heirarchical, power based system - and then choose to take action. Agencies, after all, are not rigid, stone cut buildings, but colaboratives of people. When people's minds stay flexible, open to questioning, invested in new ideas - who organizations can shift, become something more, something esle, something better.

I returned a call, late, and got a message of hope.

I'm glad I cleaned my desk.


Belinda said...

Hey, here's another message of hope. Our team was talking this week about how (and this was my metaphor, not theirs, so please just blame my weird brain that thinks in pictures)we can too often be a girdle instead of a hammock. A girdle is a restraining force (ask me how I know), but a hammock--well, it just supports pleasantly. We aren't here to hold people in, or back, or in tight and neat control.

So, we are raising passion and rousing hearts! People need a vision to understand and then good hearts follow.

I'm off to England for two weeks today, but will check in as often as I can!

Anonymous said...

My daughter spent 1 1/2 yrs. in a group home for the mentally challenged about 5 yrs. ago. It was her choice and I supported her in her attempt at greater independance. It turned out to be a horrible experience and she still has nightmares and other PTSD symptoms. I am glad to hear the positive thinking going on with you and your associates. Maybe by the time I die and leave her to deal with the world and the thinking of the proffesional caretakers which she will certainly need help from, she will be allowed to live as a human to be valued instead of a problem on a care plan. Do I sound a bit angry? Yep! Am I scared that when I am no longer here to protect her she might be de-humanized? Hell yes! Thank you so much for the work that you do Dave. You give me hope. My sweet Amber would thank you too, with a big hug, if she met you.

rickismom said...

Dear Gracie--I don't know about the big hug! Doubt DAVE would allow. (Innapropriate hug of a stanger...)

Dave- Your clients are SO luckey. What you are doing is so far from our reality, where I live, I feel like Peter Pan just to dream of it! But I guess that's the start!