Sunday, May 17, 2009

Everyone has a voice

I know, I know. I haven't blogged in awhile. What can I say? Four kids with varying issues, a dog, two cats, and husband. I don't think I need any other explanation!

Yesterday I went to a volunteer orientation for InkTank, a local writer's salon in Downtown Cincinnati. The thing that makes InkTank different, is that this is a group with a mission to help everyone find their voice. What that translates to is serving populations who are normally overlooked. For example, they run several writing programs for those in recovery, the homeless, and a new program I'll be working on, creative writing for people with developmental delays. What a great idea! Why hasn't anyone else thought about this?

If you're a writer, you already know how empowering it is to get your voice out there and be heard. After all, isn't that really what publishing is about? Trust me, unless you're Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, it's not about the money. So what about all of those people on the margin with stories to tell? Who listens to them? InkTank, that's who.

It's incredibly empowering to a person struggling with situations most of us can't even imagine to just be heard. To know that someone cares about what they have to say. I see it in my daughter Grace. She is five and can not speak. She is developmentally delayed, on the ASD spectrum and has an entire host of other issues. Even holding a pencil or crayon is a challenge for her. Let's not even get into writing. Trust me, it's not happening for her right now. But, she does have a few signs and her own way of letting us know her needs (often that involves pinching or scratching, not my favorite but hey, you take what you get.)

Communication for her is very frustrating. Often, people talk about her as if she's not there, even when she's standing right in front of them. Sometimes it's as if she doesn't exist apart from her disability. It's like she is invisible. But, when she accomplishes something, especially when she's able to communicate with us in some way, the pride she feels bubbles over. She giggles and flaps her hands. You can just tell it means the world for someone to get what she's saying, even though it's without words.

There are a lot of people in Gracie's situation. Maybe they can speak. Maybe they can write. Or maybe not. But they all share one thing. Like Grace, they are invisible. That person you passed on the street holding the sign saying they will work for food? They have a story. They have a voice, and what they say matters. The autistic child having a melt down in the middle of the store because they can't process all of the sensations being thrown at them? She has a story. It might not be gracefully executed, filled with irony and metaphors, but there's a story there, and it's our job to listen.


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