Who Cares? Rediscovering Community

Who Cares? Rediscovering Community

Who Cares? Rediscovering Community

Who Cares? Rediscovering Community


A wonderfully engaging and accessible book, Who Cares? emphasizes finding humane responses to developmentally and physically disabled individuals that are community driven rather than solely reliant on problem-solution oriented social service organizations. David Schwartz examines the roles of both informal communities and sectarian communities for examples and practical techniques that can be applied to the reader's situation. The beautifully written, touching accounts of individual lives swept under the carpet of the social services system make it impossible to read this book without being affected by the stories- such as the boy who was afraid of white, Nancy who moved to an apartment after forty years in a nursing home, and everyday life in a small east coast town whose inhabitants help one another in times of need. Schwartz does not advocate the overthrow or dismantling of the social services, but instead proposes supplemental responses that will lead to richer, better lives for both the recipient and the caregiving individual and community. The practical, easily encouraged methods of building informal models suggested by the author grow out of both his own practice and his informed experiences as director of a state social services agency and are grounded in the basic desires for nurturing, belonging, and a sense of community. Who Cares? will appeal to those working in the field of social services as well as the general reader searching for ways to bring meaning into the modern, disconnected life.


When David Schwartz finished the manuscript for this book, he invited me to Harrisburg. I arrived, and we met at a sidewalk café, a pleasant adornment to the not quite matching but nicely maintained row houses in the shadow of the robber baron State Capitol. Schwartz was at the end of a month's vacation. He had spent a lot of time sitting at his usual table at the North Street Café, touching people's lives. This sometimes resulted in a certain match between two people -- for example, a woman in a wheelchair with a shy and lonely but generous computer operator; a bright, twelve-year-old dyslexic boy with a palsied bachelor lawyer. Each had something to give the other.

Schwartz the man fits in no category. He has nothing of the meddler; rather, he possesses an unusual eye for the unexpected havens of sanity through which people respond to each other. He is not a do-gooder; when he invites two people to reach out to one another, he has no vision of the outcome. He does not fall into the role of matchmaker or gossip; he challenges those who meet through him to let themselves be surprised. His wit and dry humor have helped protect him from a pitfall of social service professionals; he has recovered from well-intentioned reforms that channel clients into mimicries of neighborhood, thereby confirming their inmate status.

With painful clear-sightedness, Schwartz has seen two things: what professional diagnosis, therapy, and institutional care do to the handicapped and, more important, the degree to which ritual segregation and treatment cement society's negative expectations about them. He does not repeat but rather complements the work of his predecessors John McKnight, Jerome Miller, and Nils Christie. Further, in one very important way Schwartz goes beyond them: He shows how these negative expectations are the main reason for an endemic blindness to the widespread readiness of ordinary people to provide individual handicapped persons with lifelong hospitality.

Ivan illich . . .

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