Thursday, February 16, 2017

Changes for the Better

“Perception is everything” – Pete Chapman – former MWSU Director of Athletics.
This was one of many mantras that Mr. Chapman wanted to instill in every part of Western athletics during his tenure as the lead man. He used this saying as motivation to achieve objectives and goals.
However, in some cases perceptions are skewed. Such is the case I came across at St. Joseph’s Haven.
I first caught a glimpse of him at the ripe age of 14 in 1984. I was a freshman hot-shot playing shortstop for my local high school and he was my opposite number, but a seasoned junior instead of a gangly freshman. When it wasn’t my turn at the plate, I watched him play intently. I gathered up as much visual information as I could from someone that was obviously better than I was.
Over the years we played against each other both in high school and summer ball. We also competed after the school years were over in a local softball league. I always thought he was a good athlete and ball player. He never said a whole lot, but also didn’t come across as someone you would not want to get to talk with at any time.
Fast-forward to October 2016. While working an event at St. Joseph’s Haven, I spotted him again. For the first time in 20 years, the guy that I competed against and watched intently from a distance was here. But why?
I turned to Dee Ann Stamper, assistant at the Haven and posed the question. “What’s (name withheld) doing here?“ She replied,“he got approved last week and moved in.” She then informed me that he has memory issues and what doctors feel are the initial symptoms of Alzheimer’s’ Disease. He has been bouncing around from place to place, not remembering where he was, where he worked, and sometimes what time of day it is.
My heart sunk a bit.
I had always heard the saying “life is fragile,” but didn’t really understand that until watching him get in line for food at the Haven. Again, as I did 20 years ago, I found myself watching him, this time from a homeless shelter. I could have walked up to him, slapped him on the back and said “Hello.” But, would he remember me? Would he know that we competed on the same field? Would he even care?
The perception of those with mental illness and or disabilities varies from person to person. Those who work in those fields, such as our caregivers at CMC, know how mental illness and disabilities can affect people and work on a daily basis to provide supportive services for them. But for someone like me, who only knows how it affects me personally, needs an education on mental illness and the disabled and how sometimes it renders them homeless.
To start the learning process, sometimes you need your heart to sink a little bit to really understand. It happened to me.
Brett King

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