It was as a social worker that I earned a living. And I hadn’t been educated or trained in that field: a creative mind served me better, and my empathy for the disabled, the homeless, the abused, and the mentally ill kept me going. And it was as an innovator that I started programs that in one form or another are still helping people today.
There had been a disabled person with spina bifida, and for most of his childhood his father denied him freedom by taking away his wheelchair. One thing this person and I did together was to climb a mountain, a risky adventure for both us given that he didn’t have the use of his legs. But there was his strong will. And when we made it to top, after pushing and pulling a wheelchair together, there was a celebration and the biggest grin on his face. He said the experience changed his life. Then we had to get down, and that was just as harrowing.
From that experience came the idea for an outdoor education program for disabled people, not unlike Outward Bound. Deaf people went on a bicycle tour and from that a school for the deaf and blind established their own adventure program. With pride I look back on that. And on days when I lament where I am with my writing it helps to look back on that and other worthwhile diversions, a living skill center for the disabled, a number of programs for the homeless, and working to protect children. But it’s not my purpose here to brag about any of this.
This is how I’ve spent most of my life; a description of who I am; both substantial and fulfilling. I should be satisfied. But the writer in me won’t allow me to rest: I speak now of all of the material I have; and that’s the excuse that I gave for all of my diversions. Forty years later and I wonder where has all the time gone? But I need to relax. Chill. Even if I never write another play or story, I’ve had several full lifetimes, and on this Thanksgiving, it is something I’m thankful for.
There is another connection this Thanksgiving between my past and me brought home by CNN yesterday and today, as they covered the tragedy at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai. This place, when my wife and I walked in front of it a number of times within a week, was peaceful enough, and we had no idea of its significance. More important to us was the coffee shop, where we would have our breakfast of dal. In those days, in an arrangement that demanded our attention, there were people who slept on the sidewalks, as though they were logs put there for us to step over. Since then, India has obviously changed, with the greatest acceleration of change (in front of the Taj Hotel) occurring within the last forty-eight hours. ‘Tis sad people can’t get along.