Monday, August 6, 2012

Something to Point To
Angela Denise Davis

I first encountered a recording of the Broadway musical, Working, when I was an early teen whose only desire was to be cloistered in my local, public library. Working was an adaptation of Studs Terkel’s book by the same name, and was a musical exploration of how some Americans viewed their jobs. I have never forgotten some of these songs, and recently added the digital recording to my iTunes library. The songs included stories of a young boy who had a newspaper route, a woman who cleaned office buildings at night, and a housewife who managed her home. I have been thinking a lot about Terkel’s book and how it would be different if it were based on the working lives of persons with disabilities.

The unemployment rate for persons with disabilities is over 70 %. Work is such an essential aspect of human life. For those individuals who do work, it may be easy to take for granted the feeling of putting in a long day of work, or the feeling of, as they sing in the musical,  “having something to point to.”

Last week, the interns attended a reception given by Wal-Mart. An employee from the company asked us to talk about one highlight we experienced this summer. I thought about it for a minute. The summer has had many highlights. It has been a great pleasure to work with Ginny Thornburgh on the “Statement of Solidarity.” I have enjoyed meeting various business people and government officials. I have enjoyed being able to make some opportunities for myself such as attending a conference on theology and disability in Chicago, and spending a couple of days at the 2012 International AIDS Society Conference. There were so many other bright lights during the past ten weeks, but I hope to never forget one moment I experience during my internship.

During one sweltering, triple digit degree evening. I left the office, and started my way back to the dorms. I was heading west, and it was impossible to hide from the sunlight. In a circus of pedestrians and cars, I navigated my way through the rush hour traffic. At the corner of H Street and 21st Avenue I was struck with a visceral acknowledgement. I had not felt this way in years. It was not the heat, or the membrane of sweat that covered my body. It was the recognition that I had completed a hard day of work at the office. I had brainstormed with colleagues, investigated problems, and created solutions. I had “something to point to” for my day. I had not felt like this since I resigned from my work at Vanderbilt University.

As I leave D.C. this week, I take that feeling with me as I create my own work in consulting, vocational rehabilitation, and theological education around issues of disability. We all should have “something to point to.” We all can make a contribution. We all have gifts.

It’s about time to head out for work, but there is just enough time for one more song. I wish you were here to listen with me.

“Everyone should have something to point to
Something to be proud of…
Everyone should have something to point to…”

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