EdVenture Weekend 1:
The Good, Nothing Bad, & the Ugly
After a fews days of rest and contemplation I am quite satisfied that our family added quite a bit to the experience this past weekend. The folks there had a huge TV with a DVD ready so that we could play the Jane Robelot interview as a continuous loop. Joan also made a twenty minute recording of family pictures set to music. When I figure out how I can add something that long to the blog I'll post it. The video was quite moving.
We had families with special needs children and families without visit us. Many advocates representing just about every statewide disability organization were also on hand to distribute literature and talk about programs that too many South Carolinians aren't aware of. Joan and I were very surprised at how many of those in the latter category knew of us, Ben's artistic endeavors, and our past visits to the Statehouse to support disability rights.
We were also impressed with the amount of folks that spent a great deal of time at our table. Many a parent or older sibling wanted to know all about Ben, how we started using art for therapy, and all the details of the three projects we put together. What surprised us most was not the reaction of "normal" folks to Ben's paintings but the reaction of special needs families! It was as if the idea of putting a paint brush in their child's hands had never crossed their minds. To say that our story was eye-opening would be an understatement.
There were a few glitches here and there which was to be expected. We'll be better prepared this coming weekend to handle so many people wanting information. In fact we sold several prints of our work and a couple of packs of note cards. Those have four cards (with envelopes) featuring one of Ben's paintings on each one. We also can't say enough about the staff of the museum. In a word, they were AWESOME!
The only upsetting situation occurred on our first break. We took that opportunity to tour the facility with the kids. I knew at some point we would confront something like this but it was truly unfortunate that it happened on Ben's special day. Three little boys approached me and Ben as we were just starting our route. I'm guessing they were around 8 years old. One of them began pointing at Ben and began asking no one in particular, "What's wrong with him??!!" A woman I'm guessing was his grandmother stood nearby but never said a word about how rude the child was acting. He continued asking the same thing several more times before telling the other boys how funny he looked.
At this point my mind was beginning to fill with rage. I responded by saying, "my son is no different than you, he's just a bit slower." I was staring at grandma with the hope she would intervene and come up with an adult explanation for her rude kid who was really pissing me off. since I was technically working for the museum at the time I wheeled Ben away and tried to move to another room away from the kid. After a few more protests, "Why won't he tell me what's wrong with him?" I turned around to see mother telling him to hush. She looked directly into to my eyes and just turned away. No apologies. No discipline for the loud-mouthed kid.
Now the ironic part: the family was African American. A young man whose elders were once and perhaps are still treated less than human because of skin color made my son feel the same because he sits in a wheelchair. It was quite obvious that Ben completely understood the situation. His whole demeanor changed to the point that we thought he would "shut down" as he has been known to do in the past in uncomfortable circumstances. That would've ruined the day. Essentially it broke all of our hearts to see our son and brother's reaction.
Joan insisted that I go find a quiet place to talk to Ben and I did. We talked about the difficult things he's accomplished. We talked about the bright future he has before him. We talked about the incredible talent he has, so much so that people all around us were wanting to be a part of it. And finally I told him how much more intelligent he was than those so-called normal boys. After all, Ben has shown great compassion for others throughout his life and it takes a brilliant mind to embrace that quality rather than a harmful one.
Although he can't respond in a way most of you could understand I knew he understood. He finally looked back up and grinned at me. He then pointed to the canvas we had been working on earlier and so we painted.
After mulling it over for a few days I don't blame the kid nor do I blame the grandmother even though she has probably walked an even more difficult road than we. I blame our education system. I blame irresponsible politicians. Moreover, I blame myself. Great strides have been made in the pursuit of equal rights, equal access, and equal justice for all particularly in the last half century but we still have a long way to go. I know I can do more and participating in this month's program in a children's museum is at least one small way of doing that.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
EdVenture Weekend 1: