Jennifer Zo.

Jen Zoon
December 6, 2005

1. When Justin, Adena and I walked into the facility, Peanut, a small woman in her 60s, approached us to help put up the Christmas decorations. Adena and I helped her carry the lights from the storage room into the common room, where a large, empty space filled the area where the pool tables used to sit. Kicking off my shoes, I stepped on the couch and hung the lights while Peanut and Adena passed me tape. We talked about our plans for the holidays and how Winter break can’t arrive soon enough and Karaoke, Peanut’s favorite activity at the center. Afterwards, Peanut made us Christmas cards and told us she was tired and wanted to go home. I left her and Adena after an hour of decorating and found Justin watching a pool game between Van and another resident. When their game was finished, Van said he wanted to play me, so we played 45 minutes worth of pool. He broke every time, and while I would play strongly at the start of each game, I would lose my coordination towards the end, and Van beat me three games to one. In this time, I learned that he was from Boiling Springs originally, and I told him I had done an internship for education class at the high school. He said he never went to high school, but that he always wished he had. After he didn’t want to play anymore, I found Peanut and Adena sitting on the couch, so I joined them and met Paul, a quiet, friendly man who loves to smile. After fifteen minutes, it was time to go so Adena wouldn’t miss her class, and as we said goodbye to everyone, Peanut approached Adena and I and gave us each hugs and telling us to come back anytime.
2. I really enjoyed my interaction with Peanut, who reminded me of my grandparents on my mother’s side. She made me feel included and important to the center in allowing me to hang the Christmas lights, and I felt very much a part of the family when she gave me a hug before I left. Perhaps it was the holiday spirit, but everyone seemed genuinely happy and thankful to be there which, in turn, made it easy for me to approach people and talk with them. Though I wanted to stay with Peanut and Adena, I also wanted to get to know some other people, and though Van and I didn’t speak much during pool, just being able to play a game and challenge one another made the experience worthwhile. I could see that when I congratulated him on a particularly difficult shot he was proud, and he began to do the same for me, which boosted my spirits as well. The most memorable moment of the day was when I asked Paul how his day went, and he replied good and I shot him a smile and a thumb’s up, which he laughed at and reciprocated with a big smile on his face, the first I had seen in my two visits to the Carlisle House.
3. After interacting with Michael (last week), Peanut, Van, and Paul, I recalled Rosemary Garland-Thomson’s construction of those with a disability as anomalous and dangerous to society and realized the lunacy of this stereotype. Those who I spoke with had some of the most positive and engaging personalities of anyone I’ve spoken to, perhaps because they don’t fear what other people think of them and therefore do not feel the need to be negative. When Peanut expressed her discontent with Bush’s plans in Iraq, Adena and I agreed with her and we began to poke fun at the state of our country and those running it. Clearly, these people are educated and informed members of society who care enough to express their opinions, even though someone else may think differently. These people are individuals and have strong opinions on different issues. If they present any danger, it lies in voicing their likes and dislikes, interrupting the smooth-flowing pace of their community and society as a whole. The fear, then, must stem from some dislike of expressing oneself for the sake of what society thinks. I can only hope to be as brave as them some day.

Jen Zoon
The Dismodern Body- Kupetz
November 29, 2005
First Service Reflection

1. First, Justin and I stopped by the office to let Stephanie know I planned to be at the center for the next two hours, and she told us there would be a staff meeting in an hour. Seeing some of my classmates in the common room, I introduced myself to the consumers around them and joined in their conversation for about ten minutes. We spoke about our general experiences with classes, and how these next two weeks will be extremely hectic and busy for everyone.
I then sat in the T.V. room with three residents for an hour. One of the consumers, Paul, offered the couch up to me, and he rose from the couch. I told him that he was fine where he was, and though he remained seated next to me, he acted very uncomfortable, shifting his weight and nervously eating pieces of candy. I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable, so I faced forward and watched the television with the group for ten minutes. After another consumer entered the room and asked Ben to use the computer with him, I was left in the room with Michael, who struck up a conversation with me.
Every time Michael asked me a question, he began with, “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way,” which was unusual because his questions were not offensive. He asked me about my family background, how my studies were going, what the school had to offer students with special needs, what movies I liked, and what books I had read and enjoyed. I learned his family is from England (though he was hesitant in telling me this) and that he loves to watch mystery films. He particularly likes Agatha Christie but could not find Murder on the Orient Express in the library.
Afterwards, Stephanie held a 45 minute community meeting, which all the residents must attend. This gives them an opportunity to voice their grievances, and the main topics included how it was polite to wipe the toilet seat, and she used the poem “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat.” Most residents voiced complaints about people not cleaning the kitchen area after they used it, and Stephanie made it quite clear that they, “the consumers,” were responsible for running the center and making sure that everyone did their part to help. The consumers then voted on whether the $70 that the Shippensburg students raised for them would go to Christmas Cards for the community, Toys for Tots, or the Homeless Shelter, a few residents remarking that the latter was near and dear to them and that donations there would mean the most to those who use the facilities.
In the last ten minutes, I spoke to Stephanie about methods they employed to get the residents to do their part in keeping the center a clean and smooth-functioning facility. She informed me that she and the others in charge have tried using positive reinforcement with the residents (i.e. giving them rewards for volunteering to clean up the kitchen), and that it works initially, but after a while the consumers loose sight of their duties and don’t find the rewards worthwhile.
2. I felt no anxiety when talking to Michael, but by the way he shifted in his seat and looked away I could tell he was apprehensive about talking to me. He thought asking about my family background and the special education system at Dickinson would offend me, and I tried to reassure him that he shouldn’t feel that he couldn’t speak his mind around me. Sometimes he would have a question for me but wouldn’t ask it because he thought it “easily offensive,” and we would sit in awkward silence and stare at Star Trek before I asked him a question. Michael seemed a very laid-back person otherwise, and I found it much easier to talk to him and his history than people my own age because he seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.
The group meeting reminded me of our all-school assemblies in high school, when the administrators would gather us all in a big room and voice their complaints about our behavior, and that made me very uncomfortable and put me on the defensive. Stephanie talked to the consumers (her term) as though they were children, and I was shocked when she used the “sprinkle/ tinkle” poem with them. I could see in some of their faces that they were annoyed with this, which I understand completely. It insults someone’s intelligence when he/she’s talked to in this way, and, as all the people who use the facilities are adults, they should be treated and spoken to as such. Though she did not say anything condescending to any specific resident, Stephanie’s tone suggested that the facilitators were incapable of running the center and threatened that it would be their fault if the center closed due to lack of upkeep. In my personal experience, people who feel threatened generally want to do the designated activity even less, and a reward system of an extra meal or something along those lines would work with the facilitators for long-term.
Overall, Michael and the facilitators I briefly spoke with made me feel much more comfortable than Stephanie, the administrator, which made me identify more with those who enjoy the facility on a daily basis. I left with a greater understanding of those who take advantage of the centers offering. We related to one another through a common love of books and films, which isn’t the most important thing to have in common with someone, but it’s possible to learn a great deal about someone through the things they like.
3. The Carlisle House patrons reminded me of Lionel Essrog in Motherless Brooklyn. Without talking to or attempting to get to know one of them, one could misinterpret their reluctance to speak as being stand-offish when, in fact, they’re very friendly and personable. With the exception of Minna, no character understood Lionel’s Tourette’s syndrome or made an effort to do so, and this affected his opinions of them as well. By talking with the facilitators and learning their histories, I’m able to take on the role of Minna, to not only be educated about what our similarities and differences are, but then to share those with my fellow students so that whatever fear or stereotypes they hold might be changed. The experience illuminated the novel, allowing me to get a better understanding of the discrimination people with cognitive disabilities face and applying that to Lionel, who appeared freakish to those who made no effort to comprehend his disorder.

When choosing my classes for freshman year, I made the terrible mistake of signing up for an education minor. In order to pass the course I had to get finger printed at the Cumberland County Courthouse, and while the police officer with two nine millimeter guns on either side of his hips rolled my ink-stained hand over the paper, the man in the holding cell next to me made obscene sexual gestures. I took this as a bad omen, and after the administrator the Dickinson College Children’s Center told me to leave because I laughed at a child who said “ass” on the playground, I decided that the education program (and service-learning in general) wasn’t for a free spirit such as myself.

The orientation at the Carlisle House left me with a much better impression than my education service experience, mostly because those who use the facility warmly welcomed us, taking time to learn all of our names and ask us about our studies. Our tour guide, “Cadillac” Jack, showed us around the facilities. The House used to be an old Pizza Hut, and the renovation is amazing, including a room designated for growing plants, a lounge with a flat screen TV and a billiard and dart room. Most of the residents are content to sit and chat, while others paint arts and crafts for the local nursing homes or help to cook the meals in the kitchen. It surprised me that the people who use the facilities give the tours, and the community works together to keep their center functioning smoothly.

I hope to make and keep relationships with everyone at the center, which couldn’t be accomplished without making an effort to get my feet wet in every area of the center. As a cook, I look forward to helping out in the kitchen, either preparing my own personal dishes or recipes that the community particularly likes. Having grown up playing pool with my dad and grandpa, I’m sure I could challenge the residents to a few games, and they could teach me darts (my aim is so terrible, if I threw a dart at a map of the United States it would probably end up in China). However, the point of this learning is not to gain skills, but to get a better understanding of this group of people who, for no reason other than senseless fear, are stigmatized by society, and only by talking with them and getting to know them as people will I personally impact their perceptions of Dickinson students and my generation in general.

Everything should run smoothly, and the only potential problem I can think of is that some residents may be put off by Dickinson students and have negative perceptions of us. I was appalled when Jack told us that one of the facilitators was spit on by someone with a Dickinson sticker on his car and, while I don’t think it had to do with any disability issue, I am embarrassed for my school. If I were in the victim’s shoes, however, I would feel the same negative attitude. So I’m going to the Carlisle House with the goal of representing myself as someone who genuinely wants to learn and understand the difficulties the facilitators face and, hopefully, help them see Dickinson students in a positive light.