Recently I had the privilege to speak with a prolific writer and researcher in family homelessness, Dr. Ellen Bassuk.
She asked what lead me to occupational therapy. The short version: I was a disgruntled biology major looking at the years of school ahead and the rigor of medical culture, and felt that it wasn’t where I wanted to go. I was expressing these sentiments to my best friend’s mother. She asked, “Have you ever heard of occupational therapy?” What followed was a conversation that would change everything.
The long version: my family lived in Pittsburgh when I was younger. I was one of five non-African American children in my school. My family and I went to a predominantly African American church. I was covered in love by people who had experienced oppression by people that looked like me. As I lived in these communities I learned about what life could be like for people of color. The world did not extend them the same love and magnanimity that they did to me and my family.
After spending seven years in Pittsburgh, my family moved to upstate New York. The school I went to was mostly white, with some people from different backgrounds, however no African American kids. No more African rendition of Sleeping Beauty. No more deep discussions with my elementary school teachers on racial equity. It was a different, sanitized world.
Growing up in a diverse community established my sense of justice. I want to be a part of a local and global community where people of every background, ethnicity, ability, socioeconomic status, and other characteristic live together and figure out the challenges of how to live together with love.
As I have gotten older, the hate, anger, and frustration I see in local, national, and international communities compels me to do something about it. It doesn’t match with the “kingdom of God” that I had seen in my Pittsburgh life, especially my church. The love that my Pittsburgh People showed me instilled a strong sense of how the world was supposed to be. Ever since then I have been looking for a way to live out that perspective in the rest of my life, and when my best friend's mom introduced me to occupational therapy, I felt in my soul it was the right place to go.