James C

The Stephens Center provided me with a new perspective on how a center for people with disabilities is run. The center tries to help teach many people with different disabilities certain basic skills so that they could function in life. We were able to help at the center and to get to know many of the members. The members (as the people who come to the center are called) come there because of the problems that they had with the people who considered themselves part of the norm of society in Carlisle. The center allowed me to better understand such novels as Motherless Brooklyn and Geek Love.
The people at the center had many different types of impairments. The person in charge of the center was named Stephanie. She told us several of the impairments ailing the members, but that there were others as well. The thing I was worried about upon first arriving was making sure that one of the members would not attack me. Some of the members were bi-polar. When you are bi-polar you have extreme mood swings for no apparent reason. While I was there, all of the members were very calm and nice so this was not a problem. There were also other members who had extreme cases of schizophrenia. One of the members would constantly twitch and shake back and forth which is a symptom of schizophrenia. Some of the members seemed to be heavily medicated. The members who were heavily medicated had an almost glazed over look to them.
The Stephens Center was a key part of life for people with disabilities in the Carlisle area. The center was a safe haven for these members. Outside of the center, people treated the members like freaks and passed judgments on them. The center allows for the members to be themselves in an environment where they were not being judged. The center taught the members basic skills that they needed in order to hold a job. When I first arrived, Stephanie asked us to teach the members how to broom, mop and clean up. She also told us that the center was a place for the members to come but that Stephanie’s main goal was to try to help them be able to go out and function on their own. The most important thing the center did was connect the people with disabilities with the rest of the people considered the “norm” of society.
My impact was not one of monumental proportions. I tried to talk to the members when they seemed to want to talk and listened when they wanted me to listen. The amount that the members wanted to talk was actually quite limited as I was more of a blockbuster rental guy than anything. A member named peanut would ask me to bring in new and scary movies each week to watch because they had gone through all the movies there. We would all sit down and watch the movies and Peanut would say things and then apologize for the rest of the movie. I had an impact of helping to provide another outlet for the members to relax and enjoy themselves.
The members of the Stephens Center faced many problems in the outside world. I heard many stories from Stephanie about how people were mistreating the members. For example, the store up the row from the center would raise the prices for goods that the members would come in and normally buy. The owners of the store thought that because the members were from the center these members would not be able to tell that the owner was raising the price. Also, the owner knew that if it came down to the word of the store owner versus that of the member of the center, the people of society would take his word. People, such as Dickinson students, would scream obscenities and laugh at the members when they were sitting in the square in downtown. There was also an instance several years ago when a Dickinson student leaned out of his car and spit in the direction of one of the members. These people are not doing anything but being themselves but society as a whole is not able to look past this and judges them for it.
We can compare the Stephens Center to both the novel Motherless Brooklyn and Geek Love. The members were constantly being treated like Lionel was in Motherless Brooklyn. Lionel had tourettes which caused him to seem different and people assumed that he was mentally and physically inferior when in actuality he was above average in both. The people of Carlisle passed judgment on the members of the Stephens Center. Like the store owner, people felt that they could take advantage of the members. The members find it very difficult to be accepted. Lionel faced the same obstacles of being denied acceptance in the book. The center is also like Geek Love as the members are basically off in their own separate world in the center. In the center (like in the novel), being off of the norm is the norm.
The Stephens Center is essential for the members of Carlisle. They need the connection to other people as well as a place to build on the skills that will help them to hold a job and to remain financially independent. Hopefully, the people of Carlisle will try to learn about the members of the center as the Stephens Center continues to grow.

Danielle and I went over at 1 like we normally do. As we entered, everything seemed normal. We sat down and began to ask the members how their easter went. I said some jokes about how the rabbit gave me too much candy. The members were in the middle of telling us how their easter’s went when Peanut came around the corner and saw us. She got really excited and started saying how we needed to go watch a movie. The watching of movies has become quite normal for our time at the center. Derek was already in the room with the tv on one of the sofas. He was just taking a quick power nap. I think the members enjoy watching the movies with me because I will start talking to the tv and saying things like “She wouldn’t say that” or “Nobody in real life would do that”. Peanut wanted to watch Fright Night. Derek woke just long enough to grumble to Peanut about how lame fright night looked. I chimed in that there were some other great movies with the rock in them that we could watch. In the end, both of us were not persuasive enough and we watched fright night. Danielle left during the movie to go see some of the other members. I am not exactly sure where she went but she was gone for a while. All i know is that when she came back she and Peanut started talking so Derek and I had to lay down the law about not talking while the movie is going on. We finished up as usual with Peanut yet again asking me if I own scream and if so would I bring it next time. She has asked me this every trip now and as I do not own scream I will need to find a copy and go by and watch it sometime with her.
I feel like I have come a long way with the members. I do not want to spout of the cliche “The visits have really changed my whole perspective and I have grown because of it” line but that covers a lot of how it went for me.. My involvement with places like the Stephens Center had been nonexistent up until now. My first visit, I had had no idea what to expect. On my last I just went in and everyone seemed to be just fine because I was accepted. My first visit, I was straining for their acceptance but I realized that I didn’t have to. They were just happy and appreciative that I would take the time to be there. The members were actually more concerned about what we thought. I had many instances where the members would ask if things that they were doing were okay. For instances, peanut would say things during the movie. Then, instead of just letting it drop, she would come over and stand between my view and the movie about a foot away from me and apologize and ask if I was mad at her for saying it. Both sides of the students and the members calmed down as we went along.
I think the center is like living in the world of Geek love. It is somewhere that it is normal to be abnormal. Nobody will judge in this area. Luckily, there are no members going around in the center trying to kill the other members. The center is a great place for all of the members. All of their friends and all they have come to know. Outside, they may be considerred to be off the norm but in their santuary of the center they are the norm and you are just a visitor

I went in to the Stephens on tuesday again at my usual time. I had promised Peanut a good movie this time so she was waiting for me to arrive. I arrived to see Peanut, Danielle and Alex dancing to some music. Peanut quickly asked me join and as dancing is not my forte I quickly brought out the DVD as a compromise. She seemed excited. We all went in to watch the movie when Peanut decided that she wanted some Dairy Queen. I was very full from lunch so the thought of ice cream made me feel sick to the stomach but I went along because of how excited Peanut was. Dairy Queen was just accross the parking lot but everyone began to bundle up in heavy clothes like we were going on some hike. I decided to just go out in my t-shirt and claimed it wasnt cold. Consequently, I came down with a cold the next day but some things you just never learn your lesson about. Peanut, Lauren, Alex and I went over and we watched Peanut as she tried to decide on what ice cream she wanted. You could see the excitement build in her face as she tried to grab her sunday with her mittens. We arrived back at the center and Peanut proceeded to eat the sunday. We were then visited by a man. I still do not know his name. He came in and first let me read a petition he had jokingly written that said that Peanut was no longer allowed at the center. Peanut was not amused. He then returned again with a hateful letter directed towards his psychiatrist. He asked me to read it. I remember the letter being quite humorous as he would combine words to make fake words. I remember one word that I understood that he called him was a flim flam homosexual. I am puzzled as to what this means but I highly doubt that he meant it in a good way. Peanut then gave me more twisted wire like she had before in the shape of ball. “It is a bumble bee”, she said. I actually still have it in my jakcet pocket as I am writing this because it fun to mess with on my class.
I feel better and better about going to the center. I no longer worry about what we are going to do because we either watch a movie, hang out talking, or watch Danielle bust out some of her stellar dance moves. I am glad that the people at the center are starting to expect me and are glad when I get there. The people haven not gotten sick of me yet so I am taking that as a good sign. I think that the movies help us to have our time flow. We then all have something to talk about and it seems to generally relax everyone. From talking to how hot the actresses with Erick to having Brenda come over with painting of Dolphins she wants me to look at during the movie, I think that they feel like they can start opening up more to me.
I think the time went really well at the stephens center. I compare the trip that we made to Dairy Queen like one of Mary Douglas’s strategies. When we were in there, perhaps it may have been in my mind but it seemed like the people working there were making an effort to avoid looking at Peanut for too long. I was reminded of the the first strategy of societal coping and how people just label others. My imagination may have been playing tricks on me but I could tell that they had labeled Peanut as different. I think it may just be the fact that the Dairy Queen employees are overwhelmed with bad emotions from the people coming in all day who immediately feel quilty and depressed for being there and eating all those calories

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