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Working Back to Inclusion of Everybody: The Details

Dear Micheline, I want to write you a letter of thanks and to report successes. It took a little time for what you said to sink in and make sense. You said that you didn't think being Information Coordinator for siblings of people with learning difficulties would move me forward. You also talked about how the inclusion movement points the way out from the early struggles I spoke of.

You said something no one else had ever quite said-that I and my family had suffered an oppression (i.e., not just my sister). That "there isn't enough contradiction in RC yet for the oppression I have suffered." I have been a determined, hard-working client and have made decent progress in some areas. I have usually discharged better and had more excitement about life when I work from the perspective of liberation. The thought that there is a liberation movement related to me and my sister, and that it is important for everyone, is like a quiet revolution for me. It's been slowly but steadily making a difference in a number of things.

In this period I moved back from Israel to my home town of Berkeley in California. I've spent a few times with M-, my sister, that have a different quality than any time in memory. I had come up with a vision of my whole family, including M-, going to a baseball game. I can barely remember a time we had all been together and done something we all liked. The basic attitude of visits to M- is of charity and guilt-the only things that have been able to motivate us through the despair and grief, I guess. I talked to my half-brother, also a Co-Counselor, and together we brought up the baseball game idea to his mom and our dad and then listened to them.

Lately M- has a new thing where she poops in her pants, and my stepmother said things about the "horror" of having to change her and things like that. After listening and offering other perspectives for a while, I decided to show a little bit of my own feelings and talked heatedly about the real "horror" for me, which was not ever getting to have my whole family together. It was good. We compromised on a trip to the beach together, and it was one of the loveliest family times I can remember. It was very restful for me to get to be around my sister with lots of other attention, and I noticed that everyone seemed to get happy. My stepmom cuddled in with my dad, and it occurred to me that it must be a relief to her to have a chance to be his ally about this. In general the tone was gentle and playful. It probably helped that I could model this, and that there is enough closeness set up among the rest of us (the fruit of years of work).

Since then I have spent other times with M-, where I have been able to be relaxed about the time and include friends in various ways. My mother visited, and she and M- came to meet me for a picnic. I invited a good friend at the last minute (feeling almost sure she wouldn't do it), and the friend was delighted. Another time I dropped by the group home where M- lives, on the way to a friend's party, and we just sat and chatted for a little while. I am experimenting with how to have her for myself and not because I am supposed to. Elsewhere I have taken a leap in speaking openly with friends, new and old, about this part of my life. Fascinating conversations always result.

At two workshops I've been to this fall, I've called meal topic tables about inclusion (and I'm planning to call them at every workshop I'm at from now on). Micheline, I have to tell you that in almost a decade of RC, these tables are some of the easiest and most delightful leading I've ever had the chance to do. I just ask people to say why they are interested to come (which brings a bunch of neat stories about disabled people in the RCers' lives and corners of their caring that they don't usually get to share). Then I say a couple of sentences about what I see as key about inclusion, such as, that it is a liberation movement about our society changing so that all humans get to be together, no matter what their level of physical or mental "functioning," and that it means our preciousness and worth are just because we exist, that they have nothing to do with what we do or produce as workers. I tell some little stories about myself and my family-how if society hadn't left my family alone we could have gotten to keep each other, that it isn't my sister's disease that's been painful, but the oppression. Then we do another go-round for people to talk about their situations and next steps, or something like that, and it seems to be very easy to counsel people. At a recent working-class workshop, people at the table started crying while I was just telling about my family and these first successes.

So that's that. I would like to keep in touch with you. I am excited for these first steps of leadership to grow (as long as I figure out how to do it for me and not out of guilt). I'd welcome suggestions from you of other possible avenues for that. Mainly I'm just thrilled, though, about what this all means, and I wanted to thank you for thinking and to share some of the results with you.

Dan Alter
California, USA

Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00