The human ability
Over the last year I have been working at the School Number 4 in Sosnowiec, dealing with people with disabilities of all kinds. Well, I would like to start by reviewing the concept of disability: No, they are not disabled people; they are fully capable of doing almost everything if we adapt their environment to their specific characteristics. So I would like to redefine that concept and label these people as people with functional diversity.
When I arrived at school after working as a guide in a museum, the emotional shock was quite hard and my ability to adapt has been gradually increasing. It is not easy to work in this type of enclosure, since each student has specific social needs and they must be respected (for example, something as light as human contact can be taken as a form of aggression by people with autism. I think the main thing is to respect the students’ space and let them approach you gradually). All this requires hard work, effort and patience. My levels of empathy have increased considerably thanks to my students, because what for you is a detail of no importance to them can mean the whole world.
They have rehabilitated my hope for the human species: For example, one of the best things that has happened to me in my life has been in this school. We have a student who can only move his arms and who is totally unable to communicate. I, trying to communicate with him using non-verbal language, built a soccer goal with my two boots. Once the goal was made, I put a ball in his hands and helped him push it to put on goal. Once achieved, I sang goal with the boy, who began to laugh uncontrollably. The teachers told me it was the first time something like this had happened to this student. I felt as if a great light in the midst of all darkness had appeared in my life. I have never felt so good doing something that required virtually no effort. They turn every blow into force and energy. They value little things and show you their love and affection at the slightest opportunity. They are fully trained to be happy and to make others happy, which is what we come to life for.
The horse lessons, the hours of rehabilitation, the cooking classes, the craft classes and drawing. Any way to express themselves, to maintain contact with nature or to fight for what they want to be is an inspiration. All this shows you that there is not a single human being who is not qualified to do something. If we have the necessary resources, we can make their capabilities fully adaptable to everyday life.
It is simply necessary to adapt students to the ecosystem and the environment in which they are trying to restructure it for their benefit in the most methodical way possible. I have learned with them much more than they have learned with me. Something I’m proud of, since there’s no reason to be ashamed of it. If any of the things I see cause me deep shame for the lack of empathy that society usually has with them, or if they cause me deep sorrow when I looked at this type of school in the past, when I had no previous experience… Then welcome shame. Welcome sorrow. But only if we know how to turn shame into strength, if we know how to turn shame into a spirit of work, and if we know how to turn shame into morality. If we can turn shame into dignity.
The only thing I have left to say is that I have become a totally new man thanks to this experience. Having less opinion and listening more. I have learned to respect contexts and not to give assessments on situations that I do not know and I have not gathered enough information. I remember exactly that I came to school as a soldier who had seen the war and the devastation that the human species can generate. Once I have seen what they have done in this school I have also realized that our species also has much light, which tries to help other beings of the species independent of their characteristics and abilities.
I think there’s nothing more wonderful than trying to help us as a species, without asking for anything in return or with a vertical charity. Thank you for this great example of horizontal solidarity, you have faced the adversity and marginality of a system that had given you its back in a structured way for decades. Now, little by little and with hard work you have managed to get out of anonymity and have managed to give visibility to this type of schools. No human being is expendable and that is non-negotiable.
Thank you very much for this wonderful experience and for becoming a person fully qualified for this type of work. TOTALLY ABLE to work with them and for them. I’ve done what I can, but more can always be done.
David Veira Rodríguez, School Number 4.