Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Enlightenment of the 80's

Since the last post and some of the comments, I have been thinking of this path that I have been taking for quite awhile now on finding ways and means to leading more of a handmade life and one that is more diverse, enlightening and fulfilling. So I would like to share a few of my experiences and ways that it has changed my life, and keeps leading back to this passion for living more.

In the eighties I was in the "big city" and involved in a number of organizations that was working to better the lives of others. You all, remember the 80's don't you? In my estimation that were absolutely wonderful. There was money galore available in grants, classes on all sorts of topics sprung up everywhere and people were trying everything from college to journeling, meditation, cooking, the classics. And the wonderful part of all of it, that I remember the most, was that everything was viewed as knowledge and looked on equally - that was a key to the diverseness and fullfillment that we lived during these times.

I spent some time with Catholic Social Services. That was the basic foundation of a new way of life for me, other workers, and hopefully the clients. First of all, we made a commitment to live the way that we wanted to show our clients how they could change their lives. So we didn't have TV or cable and unless we were taking a client somewhere we used the public transit system. Often we used the busses with the clients to show them how they could get around with cost efficiency. We worked with monthly budgeting and at times helped people find cooking classes for diversity and special diets, such as Diabetic, etc. Those things were available then, and we made home visits on regular basis, at least once a week to encourage these changes of life.

About the same time I was volunteering at Rosemont School for Girls. I teamed up with a man named Harry who had spent his career life working with pregnant teens. He had several degrees, spoke quite a few languages, and worked hard to teach these girls survival skills and beyond. This was the fertile ground where I learned the most myself and gained a joy in this way of sharing.

We made trips to the library and encouraged the girls to take out books, books of fun interest and books were they could learn things that they had always wanted to learn. We went to book sales and encouraged them to start libraries of their own interests. If they couldn't read, we wet them up with literacy training. Although most of the girls could read well, but had lost that habit with the pressures of being a single mother. We also looked for places of culture to take the clients. Now let me diverse here to let you know that often they did not want to go. They were scared, they thought it would be boring and they felt they would not be dressed appropriately. So we had to start out small, in some respects.

First, of course, we went for the free stuff. We went to things that we could go to on the bus and places that they could return to on their own. And encouraged that they do so, labeling them as "mini vacations" for themselves. There was free babysitting avaliable at the time, - imagine that! - and it was set aside as an adult time. We went to the conservatory, the art museum on the free day, Shakespeare in the Park and free introductory Symphony concerts. We tried to make them diverse, yet all of the them were geared toward the arts. The trick was to keep going. The more we went, the more everyone felt more comfortable in new situations and relaxed, enjoyed and learned.

The next stage was to set up a paying trip. This was a little harder to sell, but they were more interested now, since we had some positive experiences. So we went to a play, or a concert. We parused 2nd hand stores for skirts and blouses and made an evening of it.

Do you know what? After these programs we was shown that it was easier to get young girls to go back and get their GED's, to look at further education. No longer did they feel trapped. Too simple? Maybe. But think about it for a minute. When you work at learning something new, reading a new genre and push yourself to see that new art exhibit at the museum, don't you feel envigorated? Don't you want to see more? Find books about it, learn a facet of something you saw? Or if you don't like it, doesn't it make you want to explore other avenues then? So why wouldn't everyone else?

Next post, I will explore my experiences in the 90's and then later take it to the present to the culmination of these experiences. Please post your experiences or feelings on this topic, important to me.


Omgirl said...

You've had some amazing experiences! I remember the 80's mostly for trying my hardest to get my pants skinnier at the ankle. And trying to get my bangs higher. I guess being in middle school/high school in the 80's is responsible for that, LOL.

Sara E Anderson said...

This is really nice to read just as I'm making some major changes in my life (though, not completely out of the blue - circumstance gets a lot of credit). I've been looking for jobs to get back into the working world, and ended up getting one (part time! never done that before) in a completely new field that I think I will have a lot more fun with. I still need to process a lot, but I think I'm going in the right direction.