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Morris always acknowledged his debt to uninhibited college friends like Mike Martin. They were invaluable allies, because they regarded the integration of guide dogs in public places as both a challenge and a game. Morris recalled one episode in which he and a dozen friends entered an all-night diner in the small hours. When the manager objected to Buddy, one of the boys turned to another. "I don't object to the dog, do you?" The question was relayed around the circle, eliciting one negative response after the other. Morris claimed that, when it became clear that the manager was the only one who objected to the dog, the boys picked the manager up and carried him out. (Peter Putnam in Love in the Lead, pp. 82-83)

This afternoon, I attended a monologue presentation done by Bill Mooney based on Morris Frank's life. He spoke in Morris' point of view regarding a number of important incidents in his life with his first dog, the aim being to capture Morris' personality. He had apparently interviewed a number of people who knew Morris during his research process as well as doing quite a bit of additional research to lend some unique flavor to his presentation.

His description of the above scene touched me in a deep place that is very broken in my life. I couldn't cry about it; but when he got to the part about the dog dying, I just let it rol: weeping and wailing (silently, thank God, though the entire room was going). I wasn't really wailing over the dog, though animal death gets me every time. I was wailing over the scene and what it meant for me.

He talked about it being important for blind people to not stand by themselves--I can't remember exactly how it was worded in the presentation. The picture with this particular scene was so powerful! It's something I've been trying to say for a long, long time. We can have organizations that allow us to 'speak for ourselves," as the NFB motto says--to advocate for what we need. That's important historically because for a long time people with disabilities were cared for like children and they desperately needed dignity--in a lot of ways we still need that dignity, and sometimes we need to give it to each other as well as have it given to us by the rest of society. But without sighted people standing up alongside us, agreeing with us about the things we need, we will never achieve much in this world. Morris Frank won the right to take Buddy into that place because all of his friends demonstrated that Buddy mattered. It is the same idea as what happened in the Civil Rights movement. It went somewhere because white people caught on and started giving up their seats, standing up against what their own people were doing.

The wounded place in my heart and life is most often buried so that I can go on; but it is not untouchable. A long time ago, I was asked to leave my dog outside a restaurant. I was with some friends: a couple of them old friends and a couple of them new friends. I was new in town, and we were looking forward to a good lunch of Chinese food. It was 95 degrees outside, and my dog was black. More importantly, she was trained to be at my side, guiding me and lying quietly and unobtrusively while I ate.

One of my old friends carried the message to me after having gone in and requested a table for us. I exclaimed in shock that such a thing would even be asked of me and said that no, I would not leave my dog outside. He tried to negotiate with me on the manager's behalf, asking if I would leave the dog in the car. Cars heat up badly in such weather; and besides, my dog was trained to be with me. At that suggestion, I wanted to ask him to just take me home and enjoy lunch without me. None of the rest of the party spoke up.

finally, we were allowed in; but I was mortified and upset and could not let go of my feelings about the incident or about my friends' behavior. I probed for their reactions, hoping that someone would say something supportive. But no one did. They avoided the subject. They also never called me again. They arranged for someone else to pick me up for church, and they avoided speaking to me for any reason. I changed churches after a few weeks; and a couple of years later, I got a baby shower invitation from the two old friends. I did not attend.

This memory is so vivid in my mind that if I think about it much it hurts all over again. So I don't think about it much. I'm very selective about Chinese food restaurants in my town. There is one that is within walking distance from my home, and the staff are very enthusiastic about me and my dogs and any guests I bring. They think it's awesome that I taught Loretta to find the place using the words "Chinese food" once I'm on the right block. The manager was watching when I did it... She opened the door for me, and I said, "I'll be right back. I have to teach Loretta 'Chinese food.'" So she saw me do it, and she watched Loretta learn to target the shop, and she's proud of Loretta. I will not eat at any other Chinese place in town. Golden House deserves all the business I can bring them.

But I lost friends over an act of discrimination, over standing my ground. And it hurts. I wish I had more experiences like what Morris had with his friends in the bar. I think, sadly, that this is mostly just reflective of the difference between society in the 1930s and society today. People now are not really comfortable being outspoken about things, especially if they are a certain type of people. To be outspoken is to risk making a bad impression. Being outspoken does not have to mean being impolite; but unfortunately, many people are afraid that the two will equate in the onlooker's mind and so they do not act in response to anything that is wrong in the world.

As I write this, it occurs to me that people have a dislike for being "reactive." It symbolizes acting without thinking, and it can create more problems than it solves. But "acting in response" is not the same thing as being reactive. It is reacting with precision and grace, knowing the right thing to do and doing it.

I want to act in response to things. I want to be unafraid and unashamed to show solidarity with people who are being mistreated. I want to give help to people who are in need. I want to comfort people who hurt. I want to say I'm sorry when I hurt someone, even if I didn't mean to hurt them. I want to learn from my mistakes and take steps to keep myself from hurting people twice in the same way. This really doesn't have much to do wit what I wrote about the scene from Morris Frank's life. But I can't control anyone else's actions. I can only control mine. And whether or not anyone else stands with me, I can do it for others. That is how I heal the broken place in my heart: by doing for others what was not done for me.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 7th, 2008 05:32 am (UTC)
Well stated, I think that for which you strive motivates many of us. Each moment is a new opportunity to be who we wish to be.
Jul. 7th, 2008 10:38 am (UTC)
You are extremely articulate, and I only wish I'd been able to see the monologue that you saw. Through the first half of my stay here at TSE, I've learned more about the history of the school and Morris Frank and it truly awes me.

"That is how I heal the broken place in my heart: by doing for others what was not done for me."

This is why you are a beautiful person. I believe that we all have a purpose on Earth, and I share this sentiment that you expressed to a very personal level. Keep reaching, and I think as a larger group we'll be able to eliminate events like the ones that occurred among you and those friends.

Jul. 7th, 2008 11:00 am (UTC)
the monologue
You can order it on DVD. Ask about it when you do your merchandise order. Tell them that a grad told you about it. It may not be on the merch list because it is new. You could try calling Teresa Davenport later this week or next.
Jul. 8th, 2008 12:02 pm (UTC)
Re: the monologue
I also went down and found Love in the Lead by Peter Putnam in braille in the library downstairs yesterday. It's been literally years since I read a book in braille for enjoyment, and I'm going to try to read as much of it as I can that way and try to find it in an alternative format once I go home. Thanks for the info!
Jul. 8th, 2008 03:12 pm (UTC)
Re: the monologue
If you have access to Web-Braille, you can get Love in the Lead that way.
Jul. 7th, 2008 10:56 am (UTC)
I read 'Love in the Lead' several years ago, before recieving Sherby. It was a very powerful, well-written book: It really leaves you thinking. I understand the heart break you described, because I've experienced it in my own ways too. Sometimes the people closest to me do not always understand why I would want - need - should have Sherby by my side at all times. You don't know how many times I've heard comments like "Well, you won't need her because we'll be sitting down the whole time" or "Well, it's very crowded...". It frustrates, upsets and hurts me everytime, but I stand my ground. There are many, many other people in my life who recognize the importance of Sherby in my life, and support us too. :)
Jul. 7th, 2008 01:53 pm (UTC)
That's so sad about your friends. all I can offer are hugs and support.
Jul. 8th, 2008 02:10 am (UTC)
Seriously, those are not your friends if they are not there to support you. Your dog is like, in how I feel, don't know about your, like an extension to our left arm!

I need to get a hold of the book, "Love in the Lead". I have started to read it a long time ago, and never finished... i am terrible when it comes to books like that... although, that is improving, by only reading one book at a time now.

Jul. 8th, 2008 08:33 pm (UTC)
i can't believe that your so called friends would not stand up for you. you have a guide dog for a reason. they are trained to sit under your chair or near you and not go around acting crazy. it is a form of discrimination to not allow guide dogs into places of business, or it is here in minnesota- i know that any place that does not allow a working dog in can be subject to fines and will lose business of anyone with a disability because word gets around quickly here. there was a rather high end restaurant that lost a huge amount of business because they refused to let a guide dog in, citing health code violations, failing to realize that they exclude guide and working dogs. they now have lost quite a bit of business because of it, simply because word got around that they would not let that one person in, and now anyone with a disability is avoiding it. it amazes me the attitudes about things- i was shocked at how i was treated when i was in the wheel chair for the b-52's concert- no one would look me in the eye, i was treated less than human. and now i am going to be in one full time when i am out and i can see that it is going to be an interesting experience.

hugs. i can see how that would me a moving talk, and how it would bring up some old, hurtful feelings. if i were you, i would still be feeling hurt over that night. you really do find out who your friends are when push comes to shove, and over such a little matter, too. that is just crazy.
Jul. 9th, 2008 02:44 pm (UTC)
old hurts, etc.
If I think about it a lot, I do feel a lot of hurt about the incident. I've learned to let things go in time. They smart badly for a while, but one thing I've learned is that God always provides what I really need. In this case, over time I have made occasional friends who do stand up for me when they begin to understand why my dogs need to be with me, even when it seems I don't need them. Perhaps I'll write a post about that someitme...
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


Sarah Blake LaRose
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