For anyone who has seen me crutching around campus or Brockton the past few weeks, you might note that my daily sprints and spirits have been sluggish.
Could it also be the post-Spring Break acknowledgement that we are in the final sprint towards summer vacation and my sprinting is severely restricted? But in my few “turning lemons into lemonade moments” I have realized two things.
One is that having a certain physical challenge, albeit temporary and slight, reminds me of the many challenges many people overcome on regular basis. The campus itself has its advantages—I live for those handicap door opening buttons and the like, but curse when they aren’t there for heavy doors that swing back too quickly.
Ramps are useful, but we need more and ones that don’t add a half a mile to the trip. I have been lucky to miss “weather” (although snow is coming Friday, I hear), but even a little rain makes many of the stairwells and hallways VERY slick. Not sure what can be done, but I am sure something.
The second realization—different but connected to the first—is that, as I suggest in my new textbook on social problems, “difference” is not a social problem, the inequities that arise from difference and social systems and the policies that create and propagate those inequities are problems.
When it comes to physical challenges, we must start from the premise that all people have the ability to contribute and some people have incredible capacities to forward and articulate commitments to the social and public welfare. The question is how much do we make possible the maximization of their capacity?
Some people confuse this question with one of welfare, or special interests, or handouts. But this is misguided. Not that charity, etc. is necessarily good or bad, but it is not an issue of charity. What is needed is as full a commitment as possible to equal and adequate access to ENHANCE society for ALL of us. The better able people are to contribute fully, the better off we all are.
And, come to think of it, isn’t that really true for all of the systemic ways in which we should be helping all people have access to the fullest realization of self, creativity, expression, work and social responsibility?
So much of our work with area youth is about the inequities of the system in giving them the educational and other tools to contribute to a full realization of their dreams and talents and sense of social responsibility.
What we call social programs and services FOR youth should be more accurately called programs for the rest of us. We are all better off when intelligent and talented youth are given opportunities to maximize their potential. Such opportunities may eventually be all that keeps us from extinction as a species.
So, I welcome these weeks’ challenges as forced reflection, if you will, on the nature of ability and capacity, the social construction of both dynamics, and the commitment we must all have for social justice—equal access and opportunity for all individuals in the hope of finding adequate resources and mechanisms to maximize the skills, and talents, and creativity of those too often marginalized.
And if you see me struggling with my bags, know that I can get the door myself, but I don’t mind help, either.