Hope Not Handouts

Mark R. Weber is the co-producer of Poverty, Inc.–a documentary about the failure and peril of Developmental Aid to evolving countries.

Tom’s Shoes is one such flawed model that perpetuates donor-recipient dependence. First of all I stopped buying Tom’s Shoes because they stiffen when you get caught wearing them in the rain. They cost at least $65 on the internet after shipping and tax and they fall apart after five months.

If they can’t hold up on New York City pavement: how are the shoes going to hold up for a person in need living through a monsoon that will soak their Tom’s shoes?

And presto–you and I now have another purpose for not buying Tom’s Shoes.

I see in this developmental aid dilemma a link to community mental health systems.

Mark. R. Weber is quoted:

“After all, one of the things we are criticizing is the very idea of the big idea. But if each of us starts by seeing each person and the fullness of who they are, their destiny, their potential trajectory, not simply their lack, then we will start to identify solutions that are much more effective.”    (my italics)

Tom’s Shoes was a Big Idea yet not an effective idea.

I’ve always believed–since 2002 when I started out as a mental health activist–that people can achieve their own version of recovery.

In all my incarnations of this blog I’ve railed against the very mental health staff that claim no one can recover. I’ve been attacked by a so-called international expert who claimed no one can recover. All because I shouted out that most people can recover.

Who wants a handout? I didn’t. I fought to have a better life than the one I was told was the only option: collecting SSDI forever and living in a crack-drug-infested housing complex on the edge of town.

Everyone has potential. Everyone has the right to recover. No one should be told we can’t have our own version of a full and robust life.

For too long mental health staff have reinforced in their patients that recovery is not possible and that we need to depend on them to tell us what we can and can’t do. That’s like failed developmental aid–it does nothing to help us develop our true potential.

My blog too has evolved over the years and years I’ve kept it. It’s evolved in response to my experience working with rude and lazy co-workers. From that I realized that having a job is no valid indicator of a person’s worth–when a robot could do the job better than a lot of people without a mental illness who hold jobs.

What does your version of “a full and robust life” look like? It might or might not include having a job at this point. And that’s not the point.

The point is that everyone has potential. If others can’t see your potential, if others couldn’t see my potential way back in the mists of time, we can’t let that derail us from daring to dream that a better life is possible.

I’m here  not necessarily to “help” people like a misguided developmental aid worker thinks she’s doing. I’m here to be an inspiration.

And as long as I’m here I’ll take up a megaphone to shout louder:

Listen to us and understand us. See who we are apart from our illness.

You and I are human beings. We deserve respect and dignity.

That’s all I’m saying.

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Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She owns a resume writing and career help business. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and a fitness buff.

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