I am a believer in what people can accomplish if they put their minds to it. Fixing climate change, curing cancer, creating a more sustainable world, even ending racism are all within our grasp if we focus on doing it. This is what I call a "Can Do" attitude.
This attitude was something that developed over time, and I know exactly when it started. In August, 1977 I watched a woman named Margot Imdieke drag and carry her wheelchair over a portage to Lac La Croix in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Her grit, determination, and ultimate success blew us all away. It went on from there.
In traveling with thousands of people from all walks of life I experienced every attitude
under the sun. Surprisingly, though, the vast majority of people put on their best behavior when in an integrated group--seeking to share the experience and help each other. I wrote about this long ago in an issue of the Minnesota Volunteer, the MN DNR's volunteer magazine. It was so long ago they didn't even date the pages, but given the address and using the name Wilderness Inquiry II, it had to be written around 1986-1987. Check it out here: Can Do! Wilderness Travel with Physically Disabled Persons.
In this piece, I talk about Linda Phillips, a wonderful woman who broke her neck
on her honeymoon and became deaf a few years later. We exempted Linda from the canoe tip test, and she read us the riot act--insisting that we still dump her in the lake (which we did). Later in the trip while setting her down in a canoe, I noticed her leg flopped over in a way I had not seen before. When I asked, she said she just broke her hip. After much alarm she convinced us that she could not feel it, that it happened all the time, and that it was no big deal. So we did not evacuate her and she enjoyed the last 2-days of the trip.
There as also a woman named Helen Hurowitz who went dogsledding with WI. When she first called, I could tell she was older and she had a foreign accent. As I probed, I learned that she was 79 years old, and I expressed my doubts on whether it was a good idea to go dogsledding in northern Minnesota. she said, "listen Sonny, I survived the siege of Leningrad during World War II. Don't tell me what I can and cannot do in the winter in Minnesota." She went on the trip and ran circles around everyone else.
Over the next few years I hope to share some of the stories like this that shaped my world view. There are. literally, thousands of people overcame obstacles in life that would have set most people way back. Stay tuned!