Wed 11 May 2005
This Wednesday morning I arrived at the center to find Lauren interviewing Stephanie about the Steven’s Center for information for our Wiki page. She spoke of her passion for her work, why and how she came to the Steven’s Center, and what services they offer. We also spoke with the new staff member, Laura, who explained her background and experiences with people with mental illnesses. The members arrived soon after and the two of them encouraged us to go socialize with them. I spoke with two of the cooks (one of whom recognized me) about various things; their weekend’s, plans for Easter, our spring breaks, etc. The morning meeting started at 9:30, led once again by the senior female who usually takes orchestrates the program. The rules were read, the trip (to Capital City) detailed, and chores given out. After that, Lauren and I spoke with a woman who I usually chat with and another woman. The topics of discussion were varied: we talked about pets, tv shows, clothing stores and strange stories.
The ambiance this morning was pretty calm: it wasn’t tired but just sort of normal, status quo, regular. I’m really glad that Lauren was talking to Stephanie when I came in because it was so insightful to hear her thoughts about the program. She’s so passionate about making a difference in peoples’ lives; telling/showing people labeled “disabled” can in fact achieve their goals. She knew from college that work with people with mental illness was what she wanted to do; and has loved it since her first job. She said that the atmosphere at the center is actually really positive, as most of the folks who attend are already high functioning, which is why at certain times, I have no idea why some of the people are here because their “disabilities” do not define them. I think in comparison, it was such a normal, “habitual” day that nothing really struck me as outlandish, or unfamiliar. Which I guess is good because it means that us as students are helping dissipate their notions about Dickinson students (people actually wanted to talk this morning), and they are changing our minds about what it means to have a disability. The highlight though was when two of the members I usually talk to (and have been for the last four weeks) actually knew who I was. It was interesting to just sit back and think about how different it was now, after four times, than it was even at the orientation. It’s almost like there was nothing “remarkable;” we had conversations, shared stories and chatted for the entire morning.
I was thinking about what Stephanie said, and what we’ve read about how in societies eyes disabilities tend to encapsulate the entire person instead of simply being another characteristic thereof. She spoke a lot about how this image is changing, slowly, and how it’s part of the center’s mission to defy these stereotypes and engage the members back with the community. This made me think of Motherless Brooklyn and Lionel’s dream at the end, when Minna calls him a “radish rosette” as sort of a bizarre, but funny metaphor for his existence. A radish rosette, as we mentioned in class is a garnish, yes, but also something that is being turned/transformed into something else. Even though it probably tastes bad, and I don’t really think about radishes with much affection, they’re pretty when we seen them in that shape. I think that’s a bit like what the Steven’s Center is trying to do. They are helping these people who are, and have been deemed complete anomalies integrate into “normal” society. Because it’s not a treatment center, instead it’s more of a psych/social group they help the members become something that is not what culture expects, but still beautiful in their own way.