The Adler Aphasia Center in New Jersey is a place where people who have Aphasia come to take classes, come for the camaraderie, come to improve their speaking, come to learn and laugh and know they are not being judged. Aphasia is a language disorder, usually brought about when a person suffers a brain injury (from a stroke, a car accident, an aneurysm.) It makes remembering words hard, communicating those words difficult when they are remembered, or using the wrong words. The brain is thinking one thing, the mouth another. Some people are not able to speak at all. It is a frustrating and misunderstood disorder. Very often intelligence is not affected, but people assume it is when they are not able to understand what someone is trying to say. I volunteered at the center for 10 years and I wrote about the impact it had on my life here. When I started working full time last year I was no longer able to volunteer, so today I paid a visit to the many friends I made there over the years, that I haven’t seen in a while.
The front lobby had been redone since I was there last, and a beautiful tiled mosaic wall greeted me as I entered, with this message written in the tile: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”
So many that have come through the doors of the center had to take that first step- to enter a world unfamiliar to them, a world sprung upon them unexpectedly. Taking that step has led many of them to a better place than they were after first suffering a brain injury. My friend Bill had a brain aneurysm 8 years ago and when he came to the center could not utter a word. Today we sat together and he spoke in full sentences. It is still not easy for him, but how far he has come through his sheer determination and constant pushing to improve. He was a football coach in a school which he someday would like to return to. I hope he gets there.
The mosaic in the lobby contains mosaic flowers, each one made by a member of the center.
Here’s my friend Ken showing me which one he made.
The mosaic artist who created the finished piece says, “The design contains a curved path representing a journey, a journey isn’t always straight, or clear or easy. Many of our journeys need courage and strength to travel. But along the journey we can be inspired by the beauty of the scenery around us and by those who help us travel along the way. This pathway goes through a bright uplifting garden of mosaic flowers.” To my mind each of those flowers represents the person who made it and their personal journey.
Once again I was reminded of the different paths and journeys we all are on, and to remember how important it is to take that first step.