Saturday, February 11, 2012

My Degree in Bathroom Assistance (B.A.)

Michigan flowers
In my last year as a seminary student (Northern Baptist Theological Seminary) I was planning for Ph.D studies in Philosophical Theology. I applied to my two universities of choice. I received letters form them informing me I had applied too late, they had already accepted all the applicants for the coming year, and that I should re-submit in the fall. I was devastated. What will I do in the coming year?

Linda's sister Lora worked at United Cerebral Palsy of Will County, Illinois (since renamed). She suggested I apply for a teacher aide position there. I did.

During my interview, the UCP Director said, "Come with me. I want to show you what you will be doing if you work here." She walked me to the men's bathroom. "In addition to assisting teachers in the classroom, you will be spending much time here. This position includes toileting boys and men." I would be positioning urinals and wiping bottoms.

I had a decision to make. My hope of engaging in doctoral studies with brilliant philosophers and theologians was postponed. Instead of working on a Ph.D I would be working on a B.A. - Bathroom Assistant. God told me, "Take this job." I did.

During that year I...
  • Served as an assistant to Rochelle Gulick, who was an excellent, caring, playful, creative lover of the children in our classroom
  • Helped during lunch time, including placing food in one student's mouth who had a reverse tongue thrust
  • Taught group and one-on-one sessions
  • Read books to kids
  • Drove the UCP station wagon before and after school, picking up and dropping off kids who lived in the country
  • Held small vials containing various aromas under the noses of severely mentally disabled children, and recorded responses, if any
  • Learned how to operate a wheel chair
  • Carried children from chairs onto the floor and back
  • Did physical therapy exercises to help kids maintain flexibility and range of motion
  • Brought my guitar to class and led group singing
  • Went with teachers and kids on field trips
  • Held, emptied, and washed many urinals
  • Cleaned countless bottoms
  • Washed lots of hands
  • Huddled with staff, teachers, and kids in our tin building as a tornado went over us without touching down (I saw it!)
  • Laughed with my new friends
  • Cried alone, a few times
  • Felt anger at how some people looked at them
  • Became friends with a lot of parents
  • Respected and learned a lot from certain parents (especially D.T.'s parents, who sacrificed their love and lives for his life)
  • Wrote a song for one of the kids
  • Played a concert in Chicago and some of the students and parents showed up to hear me
  • Grew to love them
  • Began Ph.D work at Northwestern the following fall
  • Chose to work with UCP for the following three summers, plus volunteered for special events
  • Learned things about life and love and caring I never could have gotten elsewhere
  • Thanked God many times for all of this