I did not direct my life. I did not plan it. I never made decisions.B.F Skinner
Things always came up and made them for me.
That’s what life is.
I am the ordinary son of an ordinary man. Which is pretty self-evident, I know. But, as I started to unearth that fact, it became clear to me that everything that had happened in my father’s life and in my life was accidental. We live our lives this way: viewing things that came about through accident and happenstance as the sole possible reality.Haruki Murakami
Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.John Lennon
My paternal grandfather, an immigrant from Ukraine, fled the pogroms of tsarist Russia in 1905. He boarded a ship in Hamburg, bound for Ellis Island. Someplace in the windswept north Atlantic, he struck up a friendship with a young man from Belarus who was also escaping tyranny to seek his fortune in America. In due course, this new friend, who was to become my great uncle, introduced my grandfather to his sister, my grandmother.
Without this random chain of events, and a multitude of others that preceded and followed this meeting, I would not be here to write this post. My children and grandchild would never have been born, and SD Associates would not be reaching out across the landscape of northern Vermont and the upper valley. There is nothing special about my story. The occasion of my grandparents’ meeting was, of course, merely one event in the vast web of chance encounters, circumstances, and contingencies that we all call living. Each of us inhabits a time-driven and interlocking complex series of events that are only sometimes and somewhat within our control.
All the people who make up our own modest community have had their lives altered by the contingency of coming to work at SD and the contingencies to follow. Some have found love. Some have found comradery and friendship. Some have built, step by step, learning histories that enable them to do wonderful things. Some have found a haven from other life events that are challenging. Some have found meaning and purpose. Others have found disappointment and the realization that this work is not for them. We are all coming off (knock on wood) the massive happenstance of Covid-19. For all contingencies, our responses are idiosyncratic.
So, if we all are caught in matrices of accident, what do we do with that? What do we do with the fickle finger of fate? It’s all good. It’s called living, and living is learning.
What we do at SD internally, is an exercise in the management of the happenstance of entropy (the inevitable dissolution of order in the absence of responding structure or mediation). Internally, we have built institutional learning history over the years in response to unanticipated challenges that have given us an adaptive repertoire to prepare for and respond to the challenges that have and will continue to occur.
What we do at SD externally (aka our mission statement enacted) is also a broad exercise in the management of the happenstance of entropy. Suffering is rampant in the world, and our small role in this big picture is to bring amenable relief, within the scope of our reach and repertoires, to those human beings whose selves and families suffer the capricious consequences of disability, both developmental and adventitious.
This is hard, step-by-step work, and work that offers at least as much benefit to our own well-being as to those we seek to support. The purpose is to keep on keeping on. So, “l’chaim”, (to life).