Miriam G

My last trip to UCP was my favorite trip there. When I walked in, for the first time four of the members came up to greet me. Usually, it was just one or two that would sort of remember me, but this time, four people were excited by my presence. This started of the two hours on a very bright note. I split the time doing puzzles with Patty (who had become my favorite UCP member) and working on scrapbooks with a bunch of different people. It was a very relaxed day at UCP and everyone seemed to be doing there own thing or be hanging out with me or the other UCP staff. It was defintaly a different atmosphere that day. After the first hour of doing puzzles with Patty, she left becasue she had some other thing to do that day. When she left she gave me a pat on my hand and just said “Thank You.” It was very movie-like but I cannot describe how happy it made me feel. When I was working on the scrapbooks with people, everyone seemed to be very relaxed and in a joking mood. It mademy day wonderful.

This last day made me feel really good about my time at UCP. I was happy that I felt as though I had actually formed relationships with a few of the UCP members. I also realized how much this is something that have a great interest and wish to persue. When Patty thanked me before she left, I really felt selfish and happy. Happy becasue I was happy to have made Patty happy, but selfish because she should not have been thanking me, all I did was hang out with her. I truly realized how much these people enjoy just hanging out, it should notbe looked at as a great service to just hangout with someone I left that day feeling like I had really accomplished something and was happy that I had the experiance to push myself in new diretions.

This day reminded me of Garland Thompsons chapter on the Freak show because she discusses how people with disabilities are often only viewed as a body and nothing more. I must say that prior to this experiance I was definatly a victim of getting caught up over a person’s disabilty, not meaning to but it just would happen. However, after just hanging out with the people of UCP, I really think that I have come a long way in trying not to make physical disabilities the only thing I notice about a person.

My second visit to UCP was just as rewarding as the first but for entirely different reasons. Unlike the first time, there were not many people in that day becasue of weather problems, so it created a much smaller and more intimate atmosphere. I arrived when the UCP participants were still eating there lunch co it gave me some time to talk to the workers. I spent a half an hour talking with this one woman (her name escapes me at the moment) who was telling me all about her different experiances in working in this field. She had previosly worked at four different homes, all of which were for only women. She expressed her passion for working in the field of disbilities but also expressed much frustration with the fudning, salary, and lack of recogntion. She kept using the example of hollywood stars. Her point was that a hollywood star with a beautiful face can make a socially insignificant movie and yet make millions of dollars and be deemed as one of the most powerful people in the media. But, then someone like herself, who has spent her entire working career helping people with disabilities become more integrated into society, and recieves a very low pay check. However, her point that stuck with me was that you cannot enter this field with any desire to “make-it” financially, it is watching someone who is told by society that they are on the outside, accomplish tasks and grow into a much more self-sufficient person. In her words “If you don’t got the passion, ya’ need to find the exit sign now.” After this very enlightening conversation I spent the next hour working on a 2000 piece puzzle with a woman named Patty. Patty is a dwarf that can no longer walk on her own and must be in a wheelchair. At first glance, she seems as though she has noc apability to talk or interact, but after a little time with her, you find out how wrong you are. After sitting for only a few minutes, Patty started talking to me about her nails. She was saying how much she needed a manicure because her nails were looking terrible and she hates when her nails look bad. She then went on to compliment my necklace and we spent the rest of the puzzle talking about jewlwery. After the puzzle, we decided to join Jess (another UCP participant) in making scrap books. Jess is an extermly hyper active young woman and demands a lot of attention. As Jess was holding the glue stick and would not put it down so Patty could use it, Patty turned to me and whispered, “That girl is crazy!” To me this was one of the funniest and most shocking things I have evr heard! To have an individual that is deemed as “crazy” by societal norms tell me that another girl who is also labeled as “crazy”, is in fact crazy, was almost too much for me to handle. I spent my entire time with Patty that day, learning about her but moreso learning how wrong and difficult it is not judge someone else.

As mentioned before, this day made a huge impact upon me. I realized how ingrained judgement is in my head. Patty, truly opened my eyes to see how people are really not what they appear to be. We are taught not to judge people by what they look like, we are fed movies and pictures and Television programs that negate these teachings, by creating comedy out of other peoples “flaws”, yet this woman rmade me stop and analyze how I interpret people and things around me. I had more fun with Patty than I do most “normal” people not because I found it amusing to watch or listen to her because of her disabilities, but because she is a funny and intelligent women. She has the same needs and desires as all of us “normates” yet I never really realized how”normal” a person with disabilities can be! This day enlightened me of the struggles of working in this field but also about what it must be like to be constantly misjudged everyday of your life.

My day with Patty reminded me of Chick. He is a character that does not appear to be what he is. He appears to be normal yet feels constant suffereing because of his “specialty.” Patty appears to not be normal and sufferes everyday because inside she is. The idea of the other, the otherside of a person, the side that most people never take the time to look for and know, this is what Patty made me aware of and this is what I feel chick must have felt like to some extent. It is kind of amusing though, that a person like Chick, who possess this innate disability and feels ostrazied becasue of it, would be percieved as more normal than someone like Patty who on the inside posess such normal qualities yet would never be viewed as normal by society.

I just want to say that I was a little unsure about how to use bold and italics so if it did not work I am sorry and will figure it out for my next blog entry. Also sorry for any spelling errors.

When I first arrived at UCP on North street I was taken back at the people that I initially encountered. I was not expecting the members of UCP to be as “mentally retarded” (as the director Stephanie refers to the people) as they were. As soon as I entered and introduced myself to the other workers at UCP I was asked if I wanted to go to the library with one of the other workers, Becky, and two of the members of UCP, Denis and Howard (or junior as he prefers to be called.) We went to the Bosler public library and headed straight for the childrens section. The entire time that we were in the library, Howard repeatedly told me that i was a good freind adn that he was a good friend, he was not able to to really focus on much else, but none the less it was welcoming. We were looking for books on cherries and mexican cooking because these were the themes for the next few days. After we located one book on each topic, Denis and I went searching for a book on computers because this is the area that he is interested in. We found a book for him but I was not sure if it was at the correct readng level for him, but he seemed please with the choice. Then we all sat down and read a book that Howard had picked out about a grandmother adn granddaughter. I read the book to Denis and Howard and Becky, and as I read I was not sure if they were really listening because of Howards constant interuptions to notify me that I was his good friend. However, at anymoment that I paused reading Denis immediatly told me to continue. After we read the book together we returned to UCP. I then sat down at a table with two women named Jessica and Denine (spelling unsure.) Together, we completed two puzzles, one of a butterfly and one of the world. Jessica and I then played a very long game of catch until Stephanie (the director) notified me that there would be a fire drill in a few moments. So, with the sounds of the fire alarm we managed to get all 25 members of UCP outside in 90 seconds. This was an extremly impressive time considering that many of the UCP members can not walk on their own. After the fire alarm it was almost time for them to leave so, I sat down by the T.V. with a man named Jerry and tried to engage in conversation but it ended up being more of me talking and him smiling. After doing this for awhile, one of the workers, Vanessa, turned on a country singer’s (the name escapes me at the moment) video and many of the members began to dance or rock with the beat. By this time it was time for all of the members to leave and buses and cars adn vans came in a rush to take them all home. There was some dram during this time period because some of the members did not want to leave while some were very anxious to leave at once. Also, during the mad rush to leave, one of the members named Mary attempted to steal some of the food out of the freezer and when I tried to take it back from her adn explain why she could not steal the food, she became pretty angry with me. Overall, it was a very intense adn busy two hours.

This experiance was truly amazing for me. I was not expecting to be so a part of their community. I was very overwhlemed when i first entered the building but after going to the librar y adn talking with Becky, who works there, I became much more adjusted to the environment. I realized that I did not have the leisure of taking me time to adjust because these people made me a part of their experiance at UCP right away. I also couldn’t help but feel guilty at some moments during my time there because prior to my experiance I had praised myself and all the other members of the class for doing such great volunteer work. But when I was actually there, I realized that it’s not as if we are doing these peopple such a grand favor, they are people that live differently than us and just because our lives interact doe not mean that I am doing the great deed by spending time with them, they are doing a great deed by spending time with me. It is normal to think that by spending time with people that are “less” than yourself in some form you would believe that what you are doing is helping them. What i realized was how much they helped me in just two hours to re-look many things in my life. The basic things, like walking and talking and expressing my thoughts in a coherent manor and so on. This was the biggest thng that impacted me on my first visit to UCP.

One thing that cmae to my mind when I was walking home after this experiance was how I had felt on the outside. I had previously thought that the people at UCP would feel more on the outside than someone like myself but it turned out to be the opposite. I was reminded of LIonel in Motherless Brooklyn and how he alwyas talks about how he feels so different than everyone that is around him. I felt a lot like him when I was at UCP. People there were able to communicate with one another in almost another language. What sounded like a grunt or groan to me made perfect sense to one of the other members there. I realized howmuch “being on the outside” has to do with what and who you surround yourself with. Of course it is different for someone like Lionel who, for the most part, is physically and mentally able to be around main stream society verses the people at UCP, but none the less for the first time I felt as though I could begin to identify with a person who had a physical disabilty that would make others percieve him/her as different. It was kind of like by not having a cognitive disability I was somehow disabled. It was an interesting flip of experiance and is something that I know I will be able to understand more as I spend more time at UCP.

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