Friday, March 11, 2005


For years now the idea is to move disabled folks out of institutions into the community. “In the community” and “mainstream” are the terms used by those who consider themselves progressive and compassionate.

It has worked in varying degrees. Some folks have felt themselves come alive and some have felt rejected. It is not the same game for all. Not even the same rules. The thought that all of us no matter how disabled or not can live together in community with one another is indeed a wonderful thought. Each contributing what they can. Each receiving what they require for a honorable and healthy life. It is a beautiful thought, but it has a major flaw. All people are not willing to welcome folks who are not like themselves.

I recently moved onto a farm in eastern Kentucky with my wife. It is on a creek outside of a small mountain town. Most of the people living on this creek have lived here for years and their families before them. We have been here almost a year. We still have not been invited to the Baptist church that was originally built on land belonging to the farm we now own. It is almost close enough to our house to throw a rock at. People walk and drive by our house to go to this community church at least three times a week and sometimes four. We are outsiders and will remain so for the rest of our lives. We were not born on this creek. Simple as that. If they knew I had a major mental illness, my imagination is that it would even be worse.

The bottom line is that I have not felt part of a community in years. It has been at least 35 years since I felt part of a faith community. I was a volunteer consumer mental health advocate (consumer meaning I receive services) for years, but never really found a home. I never felt at home in family groups even though I have mentally ill family members. I never fit any consumer group well. They either said there was no such thing as mental illness or pushed medication too hard. It may just be me, but it may be that it is harder for us to become a part of the community than the progressive thinkers imagine.

In a recent article I read the words “temporarily able”. I can’t remember the writer’s name or I would give credit. I did not coin the term, but it has a powerful punch. If everyone could remember at anytime they might become disabled then “in the community” and “mainstream” would take on a new meaning. We would be welcome.


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