GOOD RIDDANCE TO A BAD SCHOOL

Why must adults humiliate children by making them sing sentimental ballads about institutions they despise? Moreover, why do grown-ups coerce older students to do their dirty work? Forty years ago, I was roped into singing on a talent contest stage at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind. As the adults controlled all aspects of our lives, we had no choice but to suffer punishment or comply. From my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, here’s how that embarrassing evening went.

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One of the last events that school year was a talent show, held in the deaf students’ auditorium. The children who were not returning in September were singled out before the rehearsal and Patricia announced to us, “Since you will be leaving Jericho, you’ll have to sing a song. I’ll sing it for you so you can learn the words.”

The lyrics she sang made me wince. The song was one of those saccharine ballads, filled with sentimental longing for old classmates and school days. There was absolutely no way I would ever miss the place which kept me away from my loved ones for the better part of six years. Leaving Jericho was a dream come true as far as I was concerned. My conscience tormented me as I realized Patricia, representing the school, was coercing me to lie concerning my feelings.

The only interesting part of the show, from my point of view, came when a senior boy named Ron played one of his own songs on his electric guitar. He was as close to being a rock star as any one of us could be, making his performance a special moment.

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, there are some students who will be leaving us,” Patricia announced. “We’re sorry to see them go and we wish them every success in life. They’d like to sing a song for you about how they feel about leaving their friends here at Jericho Hill School.”

Somebody began playing the piano as we launched into our selection. My conscience railed against such enforced hypocrisy as I mumbled the lyrics which the rest of the group sang. How could I utter such obvious falsehoods and live with myself? I turned my back and tried to hide my shame behind the other children.

Patricia marched up to me after we left the stage. “You shouldn’t turn your back on the audience. Don’t you know you’ve embarrassed the school?” I couldn’t answer her because my mind was filled with rage.

I felt profound relief once the show ended. As I shuffled up to the dorm, I reassured myself that soon I would be away from this humiliating institution.

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In my memoir, I wrote about similar humiliating incidents but I also described the mischief we caused. Blind and partially-sighted children are basically the same as able-bodied kids and we made our fare share of trouble. The http://www.inscribe.org/BruceAtchison website features my two books and my freelance writing work. The page is equipped with PayPal buttons too.

Please also read my www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com page. I publish excerpts from my books there too. On June 28th, I’ll be a guest blogger on http://inscribewritersonline.blogspot.com where I’ll post about a sublime father-son moment I had when I came home from Jericho in June, 1965.

TEN YEARS OF LIVING IN AN ANSWER TO PRAYER.

June seventeenth marked the tenth anniversary of a miracle. On that date, I discovered that God really does say “yes” to some prayers. My life-long experience had been that whatever I asked my heavenly father for either didn’t come to pass or could have bin explained as coincidence. From my upcoming memoir, How I Was Razed, here is an excerpt of what happened the morning following my move to a tiny Alberta hamlet.

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Waking up the next morning, I felt as jubilant as a child on the first day of summer vacation. “Thanks for today and this wonderful house, Heavenly Father,” I rejoiced as I leapt out of bed. After racing to the bathroom and checking on my rabbit, Gideon, to see if he was still upset by the move, I opened all the windows to let in the balmy breezes.

The serenity of my new neighbourhood astonished me afresh as I munched my cereal. Everything I prayed for, God graciously provided. I now lived in the sort of place for which I yearned so long and strenuously.

“Thanks Heavenly Father that you get it,” I exclaimed as I finished my breakfast, walked to the kitchen window, and admired the sunlit trees in the neighbouring field. “You actually get it about me. This place is a miracle. I used to think that you didn’t care about my feelings but here’s the proof,” I said as I slapped my right hand on the counter. My eyes filled with tears of joy and relief as I realized how completely the Lord understood my need for quietude.

Because there was no Protestant church in Radway, I spent the morning unpacking food and dishes in the kitchen. As I did so, I turned on the radio. An erudite program captured my attention. I stopped unpacking and sat next to the receiver to hear it better. The White Horse Inn featured a discussion by four theologians. Their logical but simple exposition of Biblical truth instantly captivated me.

“Thanks for that show, Heavenly Father,” I prayed when it ended. “I’ll have to tune in that White Horse Inn program more often. I learned so much from what I heard just now.”

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The White Horse Inn program can be heard on many American and Canadian radio stations as well as on demand at the www.whitehorseinn.org page. I highly recommend this half hour show for anybody who wants more than a casual acquaintance with apologetics.

As for my How I Was Razed manuscript, I’m hoping to have that published by the end of this year. My previous books, When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) are available from the www.inscribe.org/BruceAtchison page. I often post excerpts from these paperbacks on my www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com blog so that readers can decide if my writing appeals to them. Please contact me or comment if you would like any further information on these memoirs.

UNDER HER THUMB

Have you ever had a teacher or other adult authority figure whose punishment of your misdeeds was excessive? In Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), I related many occasions when my supposed sins were recompensed far beyond their worth. This is the story of one of the most egregious incidents of a supervisor taking my punishment too far.

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I am not certain why Mrs. Parker punished me one June evening. All I remember is that I did something which angered her and she sent me to bed immediately after supper. While I was talking with a few boys, she came in and broke up the meeting, ordering my friends to the Quiet Room. “Since you seem to want to stay up instead of going to sleep like a good boy, you’ll stand at the end of the hall with your face to the wall.”

I did as she ordered, silently fuming at the injustice of it all. Humiliation and boredom weighed heavily on me as I stood dressed only in my pyjamas. Summer vacation was almost upon us and everybody else was in a celebratory mood. The sound of the television and boys’ excited chattering wafted from the Quiet Room as shafts of golden evening sunlight lit up the rotunda beyond the glass doors.

As I stood, my mind wandered. I heard a rumour that I, as well as some other boys, would be moving up to the intermediate dorm in September. The thought of being out from under Mrs. Parker’s thumb encouraged me. She would have no power over me up there. Unfortunately, that was of no help to me at the moment. My legs grew tired as I endured my punishment. Eventually, I resorted to leaning against the wall. That only afforded me a little relief.

“God,” I prayed,”Help me get out of this. Make Mrs. Parker let me go to bed.” My legs began to ache as I stood with my face almost touching the bricks.

“Well, don’t you look pathetic.” I began to turn but Mrs. Parker snapped, “Stand up straight and face the wall.” I did so, wishing this tyrant would let me lie down.

“It’s your own fault that you’re being punished,” she lectured. “You disobeyed so you have to face the consequences.”

She promptly launched into a tirade regarding what a “twerp” I was and how I justly deserved every punishment I received. I could only wait and hope the tongue-lashing would end soon. After what seemed like a long time, my supervisor allowed me to go back to bed. Finally being able to lie down never felt as wonderful. However, sleep eluded me that night. I silently fumed at being humiliated in front of my peers.

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Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School)contains many more vignettes, both humorous and poignant, of life in that government-run institution during the sixties. Before mainstreaming became popular, disabled students were routinely exiled to distant residential institutions. Experts and the public assumed that only highly-skilled professionals could educate such “unfortunates.” Please check out www.inscribe.org/BruceAtchison for more information about this memoir.

DECEPTION-PROOFING CHILDREN

Have those of you with children been asked by them about other religions? Have you explained not only what the followers of other religions believe but why Christianity is true? I’m not a parenting expert but I know from my own experience that I was woefully unprepared to deal with the teachings of Sikhism when a follower of that false religion from India spoke at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in May of 1968. This excerpt from Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) demonstrates how defenceless I was against blasphemous teaching. Though I didn’t convert to Sikhism, his words shook my faith in God.

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When the cyclist explained that he was a Sikh, I felt momentarily puzzled. I knew what the game hide-and-seek was but it seemed totally unrelated to a person’s background. “I believe in the Sikh religion,” he clarified. “We believe in not being attached to worldly things. We must do our duty to our families and community. We believe in meditating upon God and giving alms but we don’t believe in the Christian God.”

“Don’t you want to go to heaven?” I asked. “I thought everybody believed in God except for very bad people.”

“There are many religions in this world. Christianity is only one path to holiness,” he explained. “The man of God rejects salvation. He wants only the love of God and nothing else. Because there is no Satan or hell, the disciple need not be saved from anything. The joys of heaven are nothing compared to merging in the Divine Spirit.

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Proverbs 22:6 (KJV) says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Though I had heard about God, Christ, and going to heaven, nobody explained about the fact that Christianity is the only belief system that leads to eternal life. Sikhism may use the same words that Christianity does but they mean totally different things to its practitioners. In John 14:6, Christ said to Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” This alone should be enough to convince people that there is only one way to heaven. All that the Sikh gentleman said to us is manifestly incorrect in the light of Scripture.

I wrote in Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) about my conversion at a Vacation Bible School a year after that visit. Check out http://www.inscribe.org/BruceAtchison where this memoir and When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) are featured.

A TWENTY-ONE INCH SILVER LINING

When I was a child, I desperately wanted to go camping. Unfortunately, my parents weren’t keen outdoors people. This was because Dad was a drunk and Mom was a nag. Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind allowed only the older children to experience nature for themselves. That was why I felt so glum in 1968 when my dorm mates went camping but I had to remain behind. From Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here is why I missed that wonderful experience but discovered something that I liked just as well.

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“You won’t be coming with us when we go camping tomorrow,” Mr. Moiarty informed me. “Since you have a sore leg, you’ll have to stay at the infirmary this weekend.” I felt devastated. No one had ever taken me camping. I dearly wanted to experience all the activities I had only heard of. Now, because the leg could become infected, I must miss the trip.

“Why can’t I stay in the dorm?” I demanded.

“There’s nobody to supervise you. The nurses can do that while we’re gone,” he explained.

I lay in bed that Friday night and cursed my misfortune. The rest of the boys would be away from Jericho, having adventures in the woods, while I must stay in the hospital. I dreaded hearing all their camping stories on Sunday evening while all I could say was that I spent the weekend in the infirmary.

However, I discovered the silver lining in my enforced hospitalization the next morning. The television in the ward had cable. The variety of cartoons which I saw on that Saturday morning astonished me. What a thrilling change from only seeing Vancouver’s two stations and Victoria’s channel drifting in faintly.

The other boys did tell me their adventures on Sunday evening but I felt I had an equally enjoyable weekend. I was the only child in the entire ward and the nurses were kind. Best of all, no one bullied me.

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Deliverance from Jericho

contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. This 196-page paperback, containing 6 black and white photos, sells for $20.00 through the PayPal-equipped http://www.inscribe.org/BruceAtchison website. I did go camping the next year and I wrote about that experience on my http://www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com blog.

THAT OTHER “LONG DISTANCE FEELING”

Telephone companies often advertise their services in emotional terms. From their saccharine commercials, it seems as if the corporation sponsoring it has only benevolent motives. Back when Alberta Government Telephones was owned by the province, they often coaxed subscribers to call long distance, promising they’d get the feeling of a visit from home. In my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, I wrote of the time when I surprised my Mom on Mother’s Day in 1968. It felt like a visit from home then but subsequent calls were far from pleasant. Here’s how I experienced that other “long distance feeling.”

Telephone companies often advertise their services in emotional terms. From their saccharine commercials, it seems as if the corporation sponsoring it has only benevolent motives. Back when Alberta Government Telephones was owned by the province, they often coaxed subscribers to call long distance, promising they’d get the feeling of a visit from home. In my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, I wrote of the time when I surprised my Mom on Mother’s Day in 1968. It felt like a visit from home then but subsequent calls were far from pleasant. Here’s how I experienced that other “long distance feeling.”

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By the middle of May, I became extremely homesick. A powerful longing to hear Mom’s voice and to learn what was happening back in Fort Saskatchewan burdened my heart. “Why don’t you just make a collect call to your parents?” Geoffrey asked me one evening. “How do I do that?” I asked. “Just ask the operator to place a collect call to your number.”

On Mother’s Day, I felt surprised that calling collect was such an easy process. I picked up the receiver of the pay phone in the visitors area and nervously recited the words Geoffrey told me. To my delight, Mom accepted the charges. She and I had a wonderful but short conversation. As we spoke, I felt the same sensation of contentment and belonging as I did when I was home. After wishing Mom a happy Mother’s Day one more time, I hung up the receiver. For a brief moment, I experienced that warm feeling of being with my family.

The initial euphoria wore off quickly as the realities of Jericho pressed down around me. A week later, when the temptation grew too strong, I called her again. Mom sounded displeased but she accepted the charges. “There’s a really cool AM and FM radio I saw in a store here. Could you please send me some money so I can buy it?” It’s only thirty-six dollars,” I coaxed.

“You already have my radio. What do you need another one for?”

“This one has FM and Neddie says it’s much better than AM.”

“That’s a lot of money you know. I can’t afford that much.” As we were getting nowhere, Mom said good-bye. After I hung up the phone, I felt frustrated and depressed because Mom didn’t understand technology and how much superior this new receiver was.

A week passed as the thought of that dream radio played on my mind. The third time, when my longings and desires grew too powerful, I called home again. Mom refused to accept the charges. I felt immensely forsaken and rejected. I stopped calling home after that.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. This 196-page paperback, containing 6 black and white photos, sells for $25.00 through the PayPal-equipped www.inscribe.org/BruceAtchison website. E-mail me at  batchison@mcsnet.ca  for further information or if you don’t have PayPal but still wish to place an order.

EASTER BUNNY NOVELTY WEARS OFF

“We had one, but it died.” These are, perhaps, the saddest words I’ve ever heard. Too many parents buy rabbits, especially at Easter, thinking that a bunny will be a good pet for their children. After a few months, the novelty wears off and the poor animal becomes neglected.

Many once-beloved bunnies end up in a backyard hutch where they succumb to disease or heatstroke, or die of fright from predators. Others are dumped in parks or similar open spaces where they become dinner for various carnivores. Those animals who survive the trials of weather, disease and infighting among their own species, cause property owners a lot of grief because rabbits breed rapidly, eat people’s prized garden plants and dig up yards. But these heartbreaking scenarios need never happen.

Many good internet links exist specifically to help people properly care for their bunnies, ensuring that the creatures live long, happy lives. For example, the http://www.rabbit.org web site has ample resources to help novices with their bunny companions. The alt.pets.rabbits newsgroup is also a good place for information and the group’s dedicated bunny-loving folks are more than happy to share their tips with whoever asks. Then there is the PetBunny e-mail list where no sincere inquiry is considered stupid by its members.

Along with electronic resources, there are books on rabbit care. A paperback titled House Rabbit Handbook by Marinell Harriman is probably the best on the subject, and well worth reading. I too have made mistakes and been led astray by what popular opinion has said regarding rabbit care. I wrote When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) to counteract the lies and misinformation that is so prevalent in today’s society.

Through recounting my experiences in this book, I hope that readers will learn from my mistakes, as well as my discoveries. If the trend of animal welfare awareness continues, bunnies may eventually be treated as adequately as dogs and cats are today. More information on this memoir is at the http://www.inscribe.org/BruceAtchison page.