Yesterday I took a walk on campus during lunchtime. In the peacefulness of the grounds, surrounded by apple trees, butterflies, and bumblebees, it is easy to forget the ugly history of the campus and what lies beneath its grounds.
The world has always struggled with how to treat those whose minds have betrayed them. The true mentally ill are often as locked away from society as they are locked in their heads. However, for a long time, it wasn't just those who were mentally ill locked away. The buildings were filled with unwed mothers, homosexuals, children with learning difficulties, orphans, and the disabled.
As I walk the grounds, taking in the overlooked beauty of the campus, it is hard to imagine that these buildings have only been emptied since shortly after I graduated from college. I toured the campus as a Freshman Psychology student, not realizing at the time, that I too, would be spending a third of my life within its walls, willingly, to help define a system that works to support those who were released.
Under these flowers lie a series of tunnels that connect the campus. Many have been caved in, but several remain. I have toured these tunnels and have heard the voices of those who lived and died in these walls. I have stood in the forgotten graveyard of the dead. I have asked myself sometimes if I have made a difference in the process. There is still a long way to go in the fields of Mental Illness and Disabilities. However, as I look at the cycle of life, I am reminded that we are constantly striving for survival and evolving. Maybe these butterflies and bees are the spirits of those who were trapped in these walls, showing me that life can change. There is always hope.
One thing I have learned after 33 years working in the field, 1 person is not going to change the world or the system, but 1 person can make an impact on someone who is struggling. Always be kind, always show compassion. Just opening a door for someone, could change their lives.