Category Archives: Events

Join Us as We Learn About Social Circles and Networks

A Circle — It’s Simple, Really

Loving, caring relationships are the key to a good life. A person’s well-being is intertwined with the relationships he or she creates. Most of us cannot imagine a life without someone with whom to share our closest thoughts, dreams, and fears. Yet the truth is that many people—including many with disabilities—are often lonely, and the most significant disabling condition they face is their isolation.

Adapted from “Weaving the Ties that Bind”

PLAN Institute for Caring Citizenship

Loneliness is the only real disability.

David Pitonyak

Most of us know that isolation is both uncomfortable and dangerous. Bad things are more likely to happen to someone who’s disconnected from other people. And, anyway, most people long for community—for the richness of connection with others. Most of the stories we tell each other and most of the celebrations in which we take part are about the vibrancy of our relationships with other people.

So, we need to act against the isolation that people with disabilities experience. We need to invest our whole selves in building lives-of-connection with and for them. We need to do this on purpose.

Luckily, others have taught us about a simple and familiar image that helps us try to build relationship-networks for others. That image is the CIRCLE. Circles join things together. They include. All right, they can exclude too, but we’re not going to use them that way.

When we build a circle for someone who’s been isolated or who hasn’t had enough connections in his or her life, we do four related things:

1. We try to get to know the person as well as we can—what interests or excites this person? What makes or might make life rich for her? Who is already likely to have some sort of connection with him?

2. We look in communities for places and, more important, people whose excitements and interests match those of the person with whom we’re circle-building.

3. We ask. We invite others to join in the effort to bring the person out of isolation—to make her or his own space with the rest of us. We do this intentionally, consciously. The experience of others is that many people say “Yes” to this kind of invitation.

4. We work to keep circles (also called “social networks”) active and sustained over time.

A few Southwest Ohio citizens have joined together to learn more about how social networks/circles can be created, to spread the word about how important such circles are, and perhaps to create a way for circle-building to become a part of our communities’ lives. We’re arranging for Al Etmanski, a founder of PLAN (Planned LIfetime Advocacy Network) of British Columbia, to spend a few days in Butler and Hamilton Counties, November 12, 13, 1nd 14, 2008. Please save these dates for good listening and conversation about how to relieve isolation and loneliness.

Jack Pealer


Quite a week

On Monday night Renate and I listened to Jonathan Mooney, at the College of Mount St. Joseph, as he analyzed and often skewered institutions–especially schools–for their adherence to the “tyranny of normalcy.”  On Wednesday we went to Cincinnati’s Mercantile Library to hear Anne Burleigh deliver the “Founders’ Day” lecture on “Wendell Berry and Membership.”  Mooney drew a picture, from his own experience, of a student with disabilities being searched out by schools and then singled out, day after day, year after year, with the clear intention of spinning that student right out of “normal” society.  He concluded with an appeal that we recognize “disability” as part of the human fabric, part of the diverse community. 

Wendell Berry doesn’t write much about “disability,” but he does hope for (as he brings to life in narrative and dialogue) a community where everybody belongs… a locality where the members of that local community are bound together by mutual knowledge, interests, and faithfulness to each other and to the land.  Anne Burleigh said that what Berry portrays is a “little commonwealth,” a good place where everyone’s vitality is of concern to every member.  And, if every member is included, then “normalcy” no longer matters.  If all (diverse) members are important to each other… well, I suppose that Jonathan Mooney and Wendell Berry are speaking and writing toward similar hopes.

It’s been quite a week.

Jack Pealer

Link to Erin McKenzie Virtual Welcoming Space Blog

You can also find more information about the Jonathan Mooney event as well as see participants’ reflections gathered when John McKnight visited Otterbein College in October, 2007 on the Erin McKenzie Virtual Welcoming Space Blog . In their work, both draw attention to discovering the capacity of each person to build community rather than labeling or obsessing on perceived deficits and needs.

You Won’t Want to Miss This : Jonathan Mooney is Coming to Ohio – April 13 and 14, 2008

mooney.jpgJonathan Mooney – The Short Bus, A Journey Beyond Normal

During the summer of 2002, Jonathan Mooney bought an old short school bus – the kind that transports students in many school districts to special education classes—and converted it into an RV. For four months, he drove 35,000 miles through 45 states to explore disability culture in America. What surprised him was that this journey led him straight to the myth of normalcy. Jonathan, like many labeled abnormal, spent his life chasing that myth before his trip. But he learned that people with disabilities make up a nation-wide movement that actively resists the constraint of normalcy for all of us. In Jonathan’s presentation he brings to life some of the individuals with disabilities who he encountered on his trip and profiled for his book. Jonathan shows how schools, institutions, and public policy enforce normalcy and encourages his audience to examine and challenge common notions of disability. Continue reading