Denis Rowley is a social entrepreneur, inspired teacher, disability activist and the Director of Equal Futures, Scotland. Among Denis' many gifts is a profound knowledge of Canadian folk music. Denis has become a co-author with Vickie Cammack and I, on the Scottish edition of Safe and Secure. We hope to be in Edinburgh on March 19th to join the ceilidh book launch. Here is his response to: What would you like to become more visible in 2011? You can also Download Becoming Visible - the complete collection of 58 essays.
Hidden Gifts and Contributions
There is an apocryphal story told by the great philosopher of science, Thomas Kuhn about Herschel and the discovery of Uranus. Uranus was the first new planet discovered in a very long time. The other six planets – the earth plus the five planets that are visible to the naked eye were known to many pre-modern civilizations.
Now the strange thing is that many astronomers actually saw a celestial object in the sky where Uranus is. Each of them looked through their telescopes and it registered on their retina – it was physically visible but they did not see it! Their understanding of the solar system did not allow them to believe what was there in front of their eyes. Even Herschel was initially unconvinced, but once it was acknowledged as a new planet it changed everyoneʼs view of the universe. Once they believed, they saw the universe in a new light. Astronomers using equipment that had been available before started seeing asteroids and making other new discoveries.
In our work with people with disabilities in 2011, Iʼd like to learn from that. If we believe in and proclaim our belief in peopleʼs talents and contributions we will all make more and more discoveries – not least about ourselves.
In Poland a couple of years ago I met a man with learning disabilities who made me re-examine my view of the world. I visited a day centre and fell in love with a sculpture made by one of the artists – a man whose name I couldnʼt even pronounce! The artist, Przemislaw Szymanski, heard of my interest and arranged to catch up with me later that day. With the help of two supporters and using his two walking sticks, he placed himself formally in front of me with the sculpture cradled in his left arm. He smiled, bowed rather courteously and said in English – "For the visiting professor, a gift". It was moment of high emotion and one that made me question just who had the disability and who was the gifted one?
This year Iʼd like everyone to be able to see and enjoy each otherʼs gifts and
contributions. When we make peopleʼs hidden gifts visible we all gain and are reminded that there is no "them" only "us".
To view a short U-Tube video Denis prepared on President Obama, John McKnight, Vickie and I click my post: Which type of Community Organizer is Obama?
Please share and distribute to your friends and through your various networks, websites etc. I think you will agree – these are too good to keep to ourselves.