I carpooled to the Carlisle house with Justin on December 7th around 1 o’clock. Justin wanted me to lead the way so I walked in first. When we got in, most of the people were sitting on the couches reading or sleeping, except for a woman named Peanut who was trying to get the kareoke machine to work. Justin and I immediately began helping peanut plug in the machine so that she could do her routine. Once we got the machine working, she picked out a CD and put it in. The first song was “takin care of business”. She had the volume up too high at first so Stephanie asked her to turn it down. We then were approached by a friendly black man named Mike (I think that was his name) who was very outgoing and took us around a little bit. He introduced us to his friend who was also extremely friendly. It was hard to tell the reason that they were at the Carlisle House because they were so normal. We discussed college football, Fast Eddies, and a number of other things. Mike advised us to go to NYC for New Years because that is “where all the hunnies at”. He also informed us that he was in the first Gulf War. We then played a game of pool against the two of them. They beat us because we accidentally sank the 8ball prematurely. After that we went back out into the lobby where Peanut was continuously singing songs. She kept calling me Stanley, and insisted that I sing along with her. I sang several songs with her including “Stand by Me”, and “Shout” which was pretty funny. She gave me a hug afterwards and kept telling her audience to clap along. After our show, we had a few conversations with some of the other people. One woman kept telling us to go to Manhattan over Christmas because that’s where all the rich people are and that it is a lot of fun. I didnt realize that a lot of people are bussed to the Carlisle House. At 3 o’clock the busses arrived and people started filtering out, so we said our goodbyes and left as well.

When I first walked in to the Carlisle House I didnt feel too uncomfortable because I have been around mentally handicapped people in the past. I am sure that this is not the case for many people in the class. I could tell that Justin was a little uneasy when we first walked in. I was surprised that most of the time we did not have to initiate conversation because several people would walk up to us and introduce themselves to us. Peanut was the most outgoing, and the two black men that we spent the majority of our time with were extremely friendly and fun to talk to. I was surprised at how knowledgable they were about sports. We talked about places to party around town, and good places to eat. Granted, there were other people I talked to that didnt make me feel as comfortable. Some of them were shaking and mumbling things which made it hard to converse with them. Another woman had crumbs in her hair and was scratching herself. Overall however, everyone was friendly and did not seem to hold any preconceived notions about Dickinson students. I felt that they really enjoyed our company and they asked when we would come back. Peanut was very appreciative of my participation in her musical show as evidenced by her many thank yous and a hug.

Before going to the Carlisle House, I found myself wondering and guessing what the people there would be like. I didn’t know how severe their handicaps would be or if they would be friendly. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help but to categorize them once I got there. However, only after a few minutes, I was able to act like myself and talk to them in a comfortable way. In class, we learned that society categorizes certain groups of people and more often than not, this categories have a negative connotation attached to them. I did my best to avoid this. I am very curious as to why some people are at the Carlisle House because it is difficult to tell any problems that some of them have. I am guessing that several of them are forced to go there maybe because of running into trouble with the law. I did not want to ask any of them why they were there because I thought that would create a barrier between the two of us and make things a little awkward. Taking this class, and going to the Carlisle House has really helped me not to jump to conclusions about anyone based on society’s views. I found myself using a few of Mary Garland Thompson’s coping mechanisms in a positive fashion. Many times what you get is not what you expected.

To be honest, I do not know what to expect going into our service assignment. Before attending orientation, I had never heard of the Carlisle House or knew where it was. I first heard about it in class when Professor Kupetz was explaining it. When I first pulled up, I had to make sure I was walking into the right building because there is no sign outside. When I walked inside I immediately saw my classmates Nicole and Gerry so I knew that I was in the right place. After chatting briefly with a visitor inside, the three of us were given a tour by a guy who works there (I cant remember his name off the top of my head). He was very nice and extremely knowledgable about the layout of the building. He was a visitor and a worker and obviously enjoyed being there because he was very enthusiastic.
During my service, I expect to meet a variety of people with mental illnesses and hopefully make their day a little better. Just by attending orientation I figured out that most of the people who go to the Carlisle House love to chat and love the company of others. It really was nothing like I orignally expected. I had no idea what the layout was going to be like. I was surprised to find that the visitors have a common area where they can sit and chat, a hang out room with a pool table and TVs, a plant room, meeting rooms, a dining room, and a movie room. Its almost like a non-exclusive club which was very unique and interesting.
Before going into my orientation, I had a decent amount of exposure to people with mental disabilities. In high school, my classmates and I visited a mental hospital called Sheppard Pratt in Baltimore where patients with severe mental disibilities are treated. The patients at Sheppard Pratt had much more severe mental illnesses than those that I met in the Carlisle House which helped make me feel much more comfortable. Being exposed to people with various handicaps is something that I have dealt with many times in the past. My God-Son deals with cerebral palsy and our good family friend’s son has multiple schlerosis. So in a sense, I have become somewhat immune to the discomfort that some of my classmates may face.
I never really felt too uncomfortable during the orientation, and enjoyed conversing with our tour guide. Many of the visitors of the Carlisle House were very outgoing and easy to talk to. Sometimes, it was difficult to tell that some of them had any mental illness at all.
The only potential problem that I could see existing would be any stereotypes that any of the visitors have about Dickinson students. It is often said that “townies” hate Dickinson students because they view us as spoiled, rich, and unfriendly. Hopefully none of the visitors have any bias going into the experience, but if any of them do, I hope that our class can prove otherwise.
I look forward to starting my service work, and truly believe it will be a rewarding and fun experience that we will all learn from.