Having just read My People, Myself by Mary Lawrence, I was struck by the similarities between her ordeal of being an aboriginal child in two rigid and uncaring institutions and my experience of being a disabled child sent hundreds of miles from home for months at a time. Though the two schools that Mary went to were worse than Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind, reading her book brought back memories of similar situations in my life.
First of all, we both were sent away, she by her grandmother and me by my parents, in the belief that we would receive a good education. The Indian Agent assured Mary’s grandmother with the same sort of propaganda as the Government of British Columbia representative used to convince my mom and dad that I’d be better off in a blind school.
Mary and I had difficulty adjusting to the regimented institutional life. We came from homes that were dysfunctional but caring. Both of us had plenty of freedom to play and wander wherever we felt like. Suddenly, we were confined to our respective school grounds with uncaring adults watching over us and forced to live with many strange children.
Both of us were disciplined for rebelling against the dorm rules. Her school in Cranbrook and mine in Vancouver were inflexible when it came to such things as bed times and religious preferences. Though I wasn’t forced to go to mass each day as Mary was, I was sent to the Anglican church every Sunday morning whether I wanted to go or not.
Though Mary was sent to two foster homes and I was sent to live in Edmonton with a couple families so I could attend public school, we both weren’t allowed to stay permanently at home after being released from our boarding schools. I was fortunate that those people looking after me didn’t physically molest me but Mary and I both suffered psychological abuse.
When we became adults, our paths were different but we had plenty of emotional baggage to deal with. By God’s grace, I didn’t turn to drugs and alcohol but I did attend a cultic church for fifteen years.
We both walked a long road to recovery as well. Mary’s was through the Twelve Step program and mine was through various psychological therapies and finding out what true Christianity is from proper Bible teachers.
Mary and I were greatly helped by writing our experiences down and having them published. We were able to face our monsters and deal with them through confronting them head on.