My name is Robert Page and I am an advocate. Officially I work for The Arc as a Direct Support Professional (DSP). I don’t make any claims to know much about politics, and I learned my legislator’s name on the way to Olympia. I was happily unaware of the extent of the proposed budget cuts. I went armed with my ability to quickly learn, decide, and formulate opinions, and an open heart to grow.
Eric (Matthes) challenged me. He said, “Make an appointment to talk with your Legislator and I’ll give you an Arc of King County pen”. It’s a nice pen, but it’s the weight of that challenge that I savored. If I were to make an appointment to talk with someone with such limited time then I had better have something important to say. He then handed out a descriptive page of budget cuts and proposed bills. I was awestruck. Please don’t get me wrong. It was not the kind of awestruck that happens when someone is impressed with the human capacity for compassion. It was the jaw dropping sense of disappointment that one gets when faced with extreme absurdity. I was brought up to believe that the value of a society is measured by how that society cares for its most vulnerable members. I was sadly disappointed.
My disappointment was the beginning of a process. I found myself moving from thinking that “someone else will handle it” to asking “what can I do?” After all, with knowledge comes responsibility. I know that working as a DSP and helping individuals live full lives is a great start. So then my question became, “What more can I do?” In my mind, this is a pinnacle question for all willing to ask it, “After having done everything that I can do, what more can I do?”
Eric is a great resource. He answered a lot of questions. And, while in Olympia, he served as an amazing educator. Talk with him or a member of the team. I would encourage everyone who can physically attend to join the next two trips and be a voice for The Arc, for yourself, and for our community. Write letters. Contact politicians. Find a way to use your voice and to put faces behind numbers. Tell your story with confidence and pride. Just know that YOUR voice is THE voice that needs to be heard.
Thank you, Eric, for being such a great guide!
First seen in our February 2012 E-News.