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Happy New Year’s and Welcome to 2011 from Spectrum’s 101 Friends Support Network Project

December 31, 2010

Happy New Year's 2011!!!

We wish you all good things in 2011,  from the folks at Spectrum and in particular the projects that Susan, Jim and I have been working on through the support networks projects.

We’re excited about our schedule for 2011 which will see us publishing a few more books and DVDs, as well as engaging in some training and hosting other presenters locally.   Our biggest event of 2011 will be the first annual Spectrum Spring Institute (the name may change) which will be opened by Norman Kunc and Emma Van der Klift, beginning on May 9th and closed by Gordon Fletcher five days later – powerhouse local leadership!  Book off the week and check this space for more details in the next month or two.

I’ve just finished an evaluation of a local agency that supports network development and hope to get permission to share that soon, but as we leave one year and move into the next I am struck by the importance of our stories and of sharing our successes.   I am also, as we all move towards making new year’s resolutions and thinking of goals, struck by how many of the stories that we hear have to do with making just *one* change.   Some great friends of mine are talking about asking the “right” question – the *one* question that will move things forward.   If they can ask the right question, a thoughtful and provoking question, the answer will be in the room.   I think about some folks up north who weren’t sure how to support their severely disabled sibling to make connections in the community – no one even knew where to begin to answer their great question, “how do we support his connections?”   While waiting for an answer they took on the job of standing with him at the back of the church to hand out the newsletter each week – and now he’s more connected than anyone, and has a whole network of friends and supporters who would come when he called.   I think of other stories where someone said “I realized I had to learn to take transit on my own,” and then they did, and then showed their friends how – and everyone’s lives changed.   Many stories about families that decided to host a meeting of anyone interested in joining a support circle for their family member, and were amazed at who showed up.   Or a story in which someone said, “It didn’t make sense to me that people without disabilities would teach people with disabilities to take transit, so we decided to teach each other,” and then went on to become great advocates in the local transit system, which allowed them access to local government… and those who taught their peers how to take transit also became friends.    Or of B.C. People First, who met together and said the one thing they wanted to do in 2010 was have a small conference – for about 50 people – and then we cut off the registration at 125…

Sometimes, surprisingly often, we hear from staff and families, “I don’t have an annual plan, why should my child / sibling / the person I support?   It’s not really natural is it?”    Yet I think a) we do have plans and intentions for our own lives, a sense of where we are going and b) often the people we support rely on those who know them and have a sense of their plans to share them with others and c) if we actually don’t have any plans, this might be one of those places where we could consider learning something from people we support and making one.    I often think of this quote by the late Jim Rohn, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”   Yet a “life plan” seems so big.   My own sense is that, for me, this year may turn out quite differently than I might expect.   I’m not sure what to do about that – it’s a bit scary.   I keep wondering, if I was one of the people that we serve, how would I express this sense of ambitious uncertainty?   Not least because at this point in my life there are some doors that certainly look to be closed…    I look at my plan for last year – a collage of photos really – and think of what I did and what I didn’t get to and, perhaps most of all, what satisfied me…   Would I even think about these things without the influence of my friends with disabilities, who teach me so much?  and would my life be half so rich and full?

Not all our plans are good ones, and some of the work is admitting that (as Jack Canfield so nicely puts it) we might have put our ladder up against the wrong house and now that we’re half-way to the roof we can choose to go back down rather than continue on a course that isn’t working for us.    The point that Canfield makes is that often people will continue climbing, just to not have to admit they might have been mistaken, and also that after arriving on the wrong roof-top people will be afraid to choose another place to put a ladder, or dream a dream.    It might be the wrong dream.   Two years ago my goal was to learn to play an instrument – something that was unthinkable for me as I’ve never had any musical experience or training.   I can’t even clap in time to the music.   Well, I couldn’t.    Now I can.   Sort of.   My goal was to learn one song, over a year.    One song would be huge for someone who had no idea how to read music, or hold a beat, or play an instrument.   And at the end of the year I could play Amazing Grace incredibly badly.   Success?  But I knew all kinds of things about music that I hadn’t known before – it was fascinating to explore a whole realm of my brain that was virgin territory.   Part of what I learned was that there are other ways to learn than the ways I knew.  And I could clap.   With a metronome.   But, listening to the recording I made of that one song at the end of that year, I realized that spending an equal amount of energy on something that was more natural for me would probably reap greater benefits.   So I gave up my incipient musical career, sent off my application forms to graduate school and am now 1/4 of the way through a Masters’ degree a year later and have enjoyed almost every moment of my studies.   Amazing Grace… opened up a whole other world for me.   But not the world that I expected to be behind the door I was knocking on.  A friend, on the other hand, is now well on his way to becoming a banjo player!

*one* thing that we might decide to change or examine or try out often leads to other changes, big and small.   John Muir wrote a quote that I love, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”    It always makes me think of Aretha Franklin’s gospel album in which her brother or father at one point conducts a sermon and says, “we thank you Lord, for being better to us than we would have ever been to ourselves.”    That’s the universe of abundance that attaches to any one thing.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Ernie Baatz permalink*
    December 31, 2010 5:39 pm

    Thanks, Aaron!
    “I often think of this quote by the late Jim Rohn, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.””
    This is a great point in that challenge about why plans and goals are important components of person centred services…

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