Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Idea

The idea to interview people with disabilities took root about four years ago. At the time, I was feeling discouraged during a long recuperation from a difficult surgery. Lying around in pain gives one time to think.

I was reading some of the stories from Studs Terkel's book, Hope Dies Last. I was deeply moved by the candid stories that people, both ordinary and famous, told about finding hope in difficult situations. Kathy Kelly, a peace activist, shared her experiences with Voices in the Wilderness; Congressman Dennis Kucinich talked about an unpopular, yet courageous decision he made while mayor of Cleveland; Quinn Brisben, a retired Chicago high school teacher, reflected on his years working in the inner city.

Intrigued with people’s personal stories, I checked out Studs Terkel’s Working, from the library. A janitor, a film critic, a baseball player, a waitress, a farmer and more discussed openly the ups and downs and individual stories of their work-lives. It was so interesting to hear these personal stories.

Each of us has stories. Life is both ordinary and extraordinary, and as unique as each person. Why would a disability change that? Society has a tendency to simplify life with a disability as either “pitiful” or “inspirational”. Neither is true.

I decided that I would love to listen to the individual stories of people with disabilities, their personal reflections and thoughts. To hear the story first-hand is what I want to do. I wrote to Mr Terkel about my idea and his response overwhelmed me. I couldn’t believe it when I received both a letter and a phone call from this wise, generous person. He enthusiastically encouraged me to go forward with my project. When I asked for advice from his years of experience, Mr. Terkel said the key to a strong interview is to be a good listener. Thank you, Mr. Terkel, I’ll try my best.


Anonymous said...

David - I am thrilled to have a chance to follow this project more closely through your blog. I know your interviews will be powerful. As a person who has been in my fair share of conversations with you - your listening skills are already pretty well-honed, so you'll do a great job. I think the hardest part will be staying focued if your interviewees like sports as much as you do! Good luck! Eileen Hogan Heineman

Anonymous said...

WOW! Studs Terkel. I hope you frame that letter and read it often. Studs knows how to write and if you follow his advice; you may write the next best seller.
The two cat lady

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking this on. Your curiosity and ability to articulate your ideas will continue to distinguish your work as you move forward with this project.