Disclaimer! This post is continued from here. Probably makes sense to read that first before jumping into Part 2.
One of the first PATHs I remember was Kathleen’s. You remember Kathleen’s story from here where she writes of her PATH with Katie. Kathleen had a full room. Admittedly now, it was of paid staff, and family members, and other people with disabilities. We’ve gotten better over the past two years of understanding why the invitation to others too is so important. But there was a shift immediately felt. Overnight, Kathleen went from being someone defined by disability to someone with goals and plan of how to get her there. Her parents saw her a little differently, she saw herself a little more realized. I think of the staff that attended, we saw a clearer picture of what our time together could really be about.
(Side note: Fast forward to May 2012, and Kathleen is a host, an event planner as is documented in this YouTube video. We’ll get to that part of the story, too.)
And we saw this, for the most part, again and again with people’s PATHs. Seeing the power of Kathleen’s dreams for herself put down on paper made it very clear to those in the room, that yes, this is part of what can help us take people’s lives seriously, and there is a different story that can be told.
I write this to be honest about how things change. I did buy a house in October of 2009. A little two bedroom in Madisonville with a big backyard.
That spring, Jordan and I started tilling up the ground and planted about 4 tomato plants. We had more tomatoes that summer and fall than we could eat. One such plastic bag full of pounds of tomatoes led us to share them with our neighbors. “Please, take these. We can’t eat another tomato” we told them one day when they were talking on the sidewalk. This is how we learned Cindy’s name (two doors down), and Amy’s name (across the street), and was advised not to worry about the guy that jogged up and down the street in the middle of the night with a flashlight. He’d creeped me out for the past year that we’d live there and it felt good to have someone say he was harmless.
Jordan and I decided in 2010 that after 7 years of dating, owning a house together, and raising two dogs that we were ready to get married. We got married last Fall, another positive and possible I said in my mini-PATH.
And, believe it or not, I also sought out a person to teach me about beekeeping. And Liz did, gracefully. And I learned, with her encouragement, completely gloveless. As for writing, this marks my 24th blog post on Cincibility.
PATHs started, for me, the journey of understanding giftedness and how to talk about it. We talk a lot at Starfire about rusty citizens. I thought I was a good person, active, involved, aware of my community before I started in 2008. I wasn’t even scratching the surface then. I know that 2009 was the shift that was needed. PATHs, person-centeredness, deeply thinking about what is positive and possible changed the journey for me. It lead me to start working actively with people in their third year (2010-2011) to find volunteer positions based on their PATH goals. Steven became a docent at the Holocaust and Humanity museum. Nikki a hospital volunteer at Children’s. Ronny, an radio intern at Media Bridges. Kathleen a childcare assistant at a church. Mike a volunteer at the Hamilton County Republican Party (there’s a great story of how we connected there that includes fawning over pictures of Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin. The things you do for people you care about!), an intern at the United Way, and to help him become employed at GBBN Architects. Krista was a photographer for the University of Cincinnati’s documenting the ZooMates program. Justin was an assistant baseball coach for a 3rd grade team for a few weeks. Tim, an intern in the athletic and alumni departments at a highschool school. Brian a volunteer at a preschool a mile from his house. Jason as a caretaker of a horse with another person at a local farm. Lauren as a respected volunteer at the Girl Scouts, leading troops during their school day who do not have the resources to do so as an afterschool activity. Bridget helped JC connect as a maintenance man at a local megachurch. As it turned out, Kirk, the head of maintenance realized at JC’s birthday party some months later that they had known each other from going to the same church when JC was was a child. They reconnected because of Bridget’s ask if JC could share his skills there.
I quoted Wolfensberger in graduate school, but finally saw what he meant by valued social roles, and how it can change the way we see people, and the way we treat people.
What was the next step? This was the third year of Starfire U. The fourth year was fast approaching. How could we build upon valued roles, the five valued experiences, and put some of this into action? How could we invite others in to see what we’ve been talking about, and join us? How could we roll all that we’ve learned into this?
What we are called to do with each other, is to let us be who we are together. How could we do that in the fourth year?