The people in the western mountains have the opportunity to instruct us. Not that they want that opportunity, but we can learn lessons if only because we imagine what their lives were like and are like now. But it is almost as if there are those who are asking, “why should we care?”
The answer is simple. We should care because we will surely be instructed. And the instruction is important because, like it or not, the world is changing faster and faster and we need to respond. When we begin to seek vision and answers we serve all our citizens and their futures.
Noting and Facing Challenge
Wherever they came from, whatever their stories, it is clear that their lives are challenged. It certainly looked like there were probably limitations of skills. That does not mean absence of talent or the capacity to learn and build new possibilities.
The bottom line is that in so many areas of our country we need to look at the need and possibility for educational opportunities and assessment of the skills which will be needed. It almost sounds like an abstract idea, but looking ahead we should be clear these kinds of challenge are widespread now and will expand in the future. One of the challenges will be not just looking at what may be needed but how to offer what people may not think they need. If they don’t need it, their children almost surely will. The assessment of what is happening and where it will lead and what is needed will take time. Unfortunately I hear very little about such explorations. It may exist but it is not prominent.
Receiving Instruction – Mental Health
There were two times in my past when I received instruction about some of the issues related to mental health. One of them was when I went into the inner city of Baltimore. I learned that these people did not need mental health services as much as instructions and help in managing a stressful environment and the offering of resources they did not know were available or that they might need.
In our “treatment” of them they gained self management skills in addition to being offered resources. The management extended to the self but also to the environment. Unfortunately many of the lessons were lost because of narrow-minded conservatism among the professions and the fact that resources disappeared as the “poverty Program” ended.
But as the perception of mental health is changing now and there is increased focus on management we have an opportunity but we also need to attend to resources.
Receiving Instruction – Vocational Evaluation
The other thing I found instructive was vocational assessment and retraining. In our mental health program, each of our units had a Division of Vocational Rehabilitation counselor. We worked closely with them to provide training and support. And the potential of people in entrenched poverty was often truly inspiring. We simply needed to open the world.
I was part of the assessment team and when I left the inner city, I continued to work to evaluate people who needed evaluation and training. There were other lessons I learned—up shortly.