"Different But Not Less"
Just last week I went to the Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctor to get help to deal with a persisting ear infection. As way of casual conversation, the doctor asked me where I went to college. I replied, “Loyola,” and his quick response was, “That is a good school.” He then asked me what I intended to do after college, to which I said, “Occupational Therapy.” He then said, rudely I might add, that I had made the wrong choice in colleges because the amount I was paying and the amount I would be earning in my intended job were not compatible. I was completely taken aback; I had not expected this virtual stranger to make such a seemingly harsh statement about my life choices. At the time I just politely nodded, with no clue on how to respond to him. After reading “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education,” I want to go back and tell him exactly why Loyola is more than just monetary value. This doctor was subscribing to the view Kolvenbach describes as the need to “secure one the relatively scarce fulfilling and lucrative jobs available” (34). This doctor did not grasp that Loyola, and all of Jesuit education, attempts to “educate ‘the whole person’ intellectually and professionally, psychologically, morally and spiritually” (34).
As most of the students in this class are English majors, I am sure they have all heard the comments about how lucrative an English major is. Yet my English course last semester has taught me more about what I want to do in life than any other class has been able to. In this class, titled “Neurodiversity,” we analyzed works dealing with people who are mentally challenged or different. In the great classic “The Sound and the Fury,” we looked at how badly Benjy was treated. We also read books about autism, some from the viewpoint of the individual, some from the viewpoint of the family. In the final segment, we looked at illness such as Capgras and Alzheimer’s. It was in this class that I watched two movie that made me absolutely positive Occupational Therapy was what I wanted to do with my life: “The Black Balloon” and “Autism: The Musical.”
As an Occupational Therapist, I truly hope to make a difference in people’s lives. I hope to truly be a “[woman] for others” (29). As King wrote in his letter, I believe that “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” To forget about people because society considers them to be lesser is a grave mistake. People who have handicaps or disabilities can offer just as much, if not more to the world. When I worked at a Therapeutic Riding Center, there was a person who rode the horses named Ben. He was an amazing person. He worked hard every day and enjoyed his time in the spotlight. Sometimes people would underestimate him because he was autistic, but he was extremely intelligent. He had a knack for making people like him. He was extremely clever, and every session I could see him actually grow in the skills he was learning. Every session he would practice saying the volunteers’ names. When he finally memorized mine (no matter where I was standing), I knew I had made an amazing friend. Someone else at the Center was extremely influential to me. His name was Danny and he was a volunteer. He was dealing with PSTD and had a service animal, but he still made time every day to help others. Not only did he embody what I wanted to with my life (animal-assisted therapy in terms of Occupational Therapy) but he went out of his way to help others, even when dealing with his own issues.
King discusses how “inferiority [can begin] to form” in a person. I hope that through Occupational Therapy I can give people life experiences and tools so that they never have to feel inferior, even if they are dealing with something difficult. I hope to teach the people I work with something that Kolvenbach wrote that resonates with me: “Each [person is] a unique individual” (32) and that each person “can use their talents” (32). Our motto in my previous class was very similar: each person is different but not less. I hope to use the amazing opportunity that I have had at Loyola to use my abilities to help people who are not fortunate enough to have the same opportunity.