Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Climb into someone’s skin before you judge

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

There is a lesson to be learned in this quote. This quote is more than a set of words in Harper Lee’s American literature classic “To Kill A Mockingbird.” This quote is about more than moral righteousness. This quote is about more than perspective.

While this quote may be all of those things, what this quote is truly about is life in general. We walk through life sometimes pretending that we know everything. We sometimes think that we understand everything about everyone. We are wrong.

We don’t know everything about everyone because we usually forget one vital ingredient of understanding someone: perspective. This lack of perspective is so common that it sometimes feels natural. Many of the problems concerning inequality – intentional and non-intentional – are rooted from a lack of perspective.

Last Thursday, over 100 families and advocates for people with disabilities sought to bring perspective to the eyes of those who are supposed to be blessed with it: politicians. The event sponsored by the The Arc of Massachusetts, titled “Walk in Our Shoes,” took place in response to an ongoing financial situation here in Massachusetts that proposed budget cuts to the programs that are integral in the lives and support of those with disabilities and their loved ones.

My mother, Donna Kushi, works for a family support division that is partnered with The Arc of Massachusetts. In an e-mail that she received concerning “Walk in Our Shoes,” the proposed cuts would result in $49 million worth of reduced services in the past year and over $100 million worth of reduced services in the past two years. Clearly, this is an issue that needs to be addressed.

“We want to increase the Legislature’s awareness on how serious proposed cuts will be for people of disabilities,” said Leo Sarkissian, executive director of The Arc of Massachusetts, according to an article covering the event in the Boston Herald.

“Walk in Our Shoes” encompassed the families and advocates gathering in Room 437 of the State House in Boston sporting worn footwear. After a short presentation, the participants went to visit every senator’s and representative’s office where they proceeded to present their footwear and leave a certificate in the respective office explaining how they could gain perspective by walking in another’s shoes and looking at what life is like for a person with disabilities.

While all people with disabilities may not feel this necessary, and some may even feel that this is just a form of pity, so too are there people out there who only want people to gain perspective and look at life through their eyes. As you read this article, imagine what it would feel like to have a disability of any kind. What would you do? How would you feel? If you really want to educate yourself on this matter, do what has been asked of the legislators and spend a day, or even part of a day, with a family that deals with these issues every day.

While “Walk in Our Shoes” was an event to heighten awareness concerning funds for services for people with disabilities, there is already some hope. The significance and importance of providing proper funding for programs that benefit people with disabilities and those around them has not been lost upon Deval Patrick.

As Sarkissian noted in an e-mail to The Arc of Massachusetts that my mother received, “throughout the recession, Governor Patrick has kept the needs of people with disabilities as a top priority for the Commonwealth. He is the only Chief Executive who has shown the willingness to understand the vulnerabilities of the people we serve and their capacity to serve their community.”

What The Arc of Massachusetts, and all of the loving and compassionate people all over, wish for, is that legislators find the perspective that is necessary to understand another fellow human being. If funding to these programs is cut, we are not helping our fellow man stand. Instead, we are crippling him.

If funding is cut, those that depend on support in order to hold jobs will be forced to lose their jobs. Those that rely on care centers to provide love and happiness to their lives will lose that opportunity. Those families that need help and counsel on how to handle situations that may be unique to them will be forced to shoulder that burden themselves instead of relying upon a support system that should be afforded to every man and woman.

What legislators need to do is find the perspective on this matter and look at the situation from both sides. Is it just a question of economics and finances or is it a question of human morality and humanity? In the final analysis, regardless of what differences may seem to separate us, we all share the same bond whether we are a person with a disability or not. That common bond is that we are all human beings and deserve to be treated with love and respect. We all have the unalienable right to pursuit of happiness.

This is the great lesson that must be remembered in this discussion of perspective. When it is said that people need to find perspective, they need to apply it to all aspects of life. Only then can we truly understand each other for what we are. Only then can we understand how to better ourselves and those around us. Only then can we make this world an even better place.

Matt Kushi is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].

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