The mind is a wonderful and fearsome thing. Mine, for example, dredges up unexpected glimpses—memories, good and bad—of incidents which have shaped my life. Some are events. Some are encounters with people – family, friends, or strangers. All have been emotional, engulfing my heart and challenging my intellect.
There seems to be no order to these glimpses. My mind skips through my life, picks out events, and presents them for my attention. Sometimes they are helpful for resolving a current problem, but many times not. Something just triggers a recollection. Some of the events that my mind will not drop go back to my early twenties.
Those were troubled times. Canada was still at war, victory not yet sure. The country was short of everything, including trained people to fill the gaps left by those going overseas. So it was in 1943 that I found myself being trained as an assistant for the doctor who ran the Provincial Guidance Clinic in Edmonton. It held three sessions a month, and dealt with a multitude of problems.
Under the direction of the psychiatrist in charge, I arranged each clinic and prepared the necessary paperwork. One day as I sat in the adjoining office, I heard a middle-aged woman crying in his office. Later, as he dictated notes for her file, I learned that she was a lesbian. When I assumed that her sexual choice (as I understood it then) went in the line for “cause of condition,” he corrected me.
“Oh, no. To be homosexual is as normal as to be heterosexual. It is the way that she has been treated by our heterosexual society that has ruined her mental stability.”
Another unexpected lesson came when a mother visited the clinic with her Down’s Syndrome daughter – a happy, cheerful little girl.
“What can I do for you?” asked the doctor.
“Just advice, Doctor. She gives me so much joy, just as she is. It distresses me though, when some people don’t like to be near her. Do they think that being different makes her dangerous? What should I do?”
“You are already doing what she needs: You give her love and acceptance. Don’t worry about those who have not encountered Down’s Syndrome before. Do what you can to educate them, and move on. Jessica’s niche is small, and her gifts precious to those who know her. Be strong, soldier on, and continue to enjoy your delightful daughter.”
I’m reaching a long way back along my path for these glimpses, which are only a few of the memories my mind has accumulated. Did they change me? Of course! I learned to see the world differently, as a more complex place with wider boundaries than I had imagined.
The years slip by. Will I continue to change? I devoutly hope so, for it will indicate that I am still learning. But in any event, the treasure chest of memories my mind has been carefully storing is waiting to be used, both for sheer pleasure and for encouragement and guidance in my dwindling years.
So, in that knowledge, I have just one request of my mind:
“More glimpses, please!