Beyond Silent Walls

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By Kevin Casillo, Clairemont Times March 2015

I have decided in light of global tragedies, you will allow me the opportunity to express a few paragraphs that I know could never heal this crazy world. But perhaps help heal the hearts of many suffering from global strife. In my 40 some odd working years I have found reinventing myself every five or 6 years has fueled my personal and professional growth.  Along the way I have had the most extraordinary opportunities to meet some of the most successful people. By success I am not referring to financial wealth, although a few have been extremely, well let’s just say comfortable.

Through these people I recognized they all had something more important to give, it is knowledge.  For me and hopefully you as well, knowledge has always been the source of strength and drive.  No matter who we meet along the way on this amazing journey called life, we can’t help but learn something from everyone we meet. For this story I am referring to the life long inspiration I have obtained through silent voices.

I remember with great pride time spent as a young adult working in what most of you might describe as the most disturbing environment, was actually my best life experience. It was my second job right out of high school, a state run mental health facility in Massachusetts.  One of those Gothic, Romanesque style buildings with granite block foundations with Victorian turrets tucked and hidden away on 50 acres of manicured grounds.  The property with a half mile drive through winding paved roads lined with 200 year old Oak Trees caressed by miles of stone walls built by patients in the mid 1800’s. The huge clock tower still stands today, unfortunately most of the old buildings, like the patients I came to know and love are gone, but never to be forgotten.

This job changed my life and how I would view people for as long as I remain. If you have had the good fortune to look into the warm, caring eyes of someone with Down Syndrome, or felt the pain of a Mother’s broken heart upon learning her teenage son has died from a self-inflicted wound you know of what I speak.  If you have looked into the eyes of a now catatonic frail individual completely dependent on you for food, bathing and the simple human touch, you know what I speak.  They manage a smile, their eyes begin to sparkle in your presence a faint acknowledgment and appreciation, or so we like to believe.  Many, confined to an institution for more than 30 years, no longer or perhaps never visited by family, someone’s son or daughter bedridden for decades is entrusted to you.  As I look into their time honored brow and worn, troubled faces I silently wonder where their thoughts might be found. Are their thoughts that of home, or perhaps playing in a field of tall summer grass?  I can’t help asking what crime rewards such a lifetime punishment.

What I do know and what these people have taught me is this; if you are willing to open your mind and allow yourself to listen from the heart, they can teach us all and teach us well. Every human being, no matter how sick or socially unacceptable or disfigured is no less precious or valuable than our own self-worth.  For in that disfigured life is the capability to love, care for and to nurture. So it is our obligation that we return that lesson. Not just for today or this month, but for all time.

I know this may be a bit too philosophical for this newspaper, but this journey we are all on leads us down a path, a direction we know very little about.  We think we’re planning and cheating time, but we’re not.  It’s up to each of us to let go of the anger and hatred, we must guide ourselves and the next generation to live in solidarity and without harm.