Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2021

Who Is Normal?

EVERY ONCE IN AWHILE I AM ASKED TO GIVE SHORT SPEECHES or presentations to civic groups or service organizations. I’ve done a few things for the likes of Kiwanis and businesses. Lately I have been asked to speak before an organization that serves citizens with special needs.

A couple of months ago I went downtown and spoke before both clients and staff of this same outfit about the value of writing down their own personal stories.

I said to them that, “No matter who you are you are a special and unique individual and you have a story worth telling.” I spoke to them about how to write down their stories and how, in doing so, they would be able to both learn and to teach. They would learn more about themselves and they would teach everyone else about their uniqueness, challenges, and gifts that they have to offer to the world.

That day I expected to talk for about 20 minutes and then hit the road. Their comments and questions kept me there for more than an hour. They invited me back.

When we settled on a date and time I asked them what they wanted me to talk about and they gave me carte blanch. I didn’t decide on a topic until the night before my scheduled appearance.

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s I was working for the Pacific Gas and Electric Company in San Francisco. A lot of my time was taken up with being the president of an Employee Association for People With Disabilities, and taking part in a number of Diversity Awareness training sessions, presenting a module on Disabilities. I honestly think I got more out of it than the people sitting in the chairs in front of me. I ended up modifying my presentation into something more devoted to pointing out our similarities than our differences. I found it rewarding to have everyone think about defining or redefining the meaning of the word “”Normal.”

And that is what I spoke about on my return engagement here in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Think about it.”).

Like my first time there I was speaking to a mixture of both clients and staff. This time I also had a couple of Corporate Suits there who were visiting the office that day. They were pleased to have an “outsider” come in to speak. They took pictures and actually stayed to listen.

They offered me a very formal looking podium, but I declined, telling them that I preferred to be in among the audience – up close and personal. That comes from my years doing comedy and teaching traffic violator schools – that and also knowing that “a moving target is harder to hit.”

For twenty minutes I talked with, not at, everyone there about how no matter what abilities you have or not, that is normal – your normal.

There are seven billion people on Earth and they are all normal. Different?  Yes, but everyone lives their life inside their own normal.

Hearing that from a man who is, himself, labeled as “Disabled,” just like most of the people in that room, hit a nerve. Men and women who were silent and motionless when I started began to express themselves and to reach out to exchange “high-fives” with me. The look on the faces of the Staff was a mixture of both surprise and joy. I was a hit.

They asked me, yet again, if I could return in a few months. How could I say, “No?”


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12 thoughts on “Who Is Normal?

  1. Normal?! Well, if I thought I wasn’t, after reading todays “lesson” I know now that I am. Thank you, John. Very delightful and educational piece to read with my morning tea.

    I agree that one should write down every experience, every day. Most people don’t and won’t do that, though. Recently, I completed a Memoir on “My Life In The USAF”. Even though it had been 60 years since leaving, I was really surprised at what I remembered. Oh, not at first. It was after getting into my “story”. That’s when many experiences came back to mind. It’s only 73 typed pages with pictures, but it tells it like it was, for me, partly during the Occupation of Germany from WWII. I’ve started one on “My Life After The USAF”. I figured these writings will someday be of interest and value to my Family.

    Thanks, again, my Friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. John, this is everything I teach in my classroom. You are writing it through different eyes. I can’t thank you enough for all you said. It is so true and important. The best part is how you tell it, in a genuine John Kraft style. I don’t think enough people get this. I’m reblogging. Thank You!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on A Teacher's Reflections and commented:
    John hits the nail on the head when talking about normal. He is a down-to-earth guy. He is who we all should be. Thank you, John. Please visit my classroom!


  4. John Fioravanti on said:

    Excellent article. I’m pleased to see people advance the idea that normal is an individual construct rather than communal. Seeing our similarities rather than our differences is crucial if we’re ever going to eradicate all the discrimination based on race, gender, religion, physical traits, etc. I loved that you prefer to speak with a crowd instead of speak at them from a podium.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on K. D. Dowdall and commented:
    Seeing the person and not the disability as John writes is something some people do naturally, without thought and because people like John and many us of writers on WordPress, it is important to spread the word that there is really no label to be given called “Normal”. My twin sister and I have been working with disabled children and adults since we were teenagers. My sister is has spent her life as a teacher for severely, profoundly disabled children. Normal is a word that is foreign to me and I applaud John for his insights and understanding. I know the word normal is foreign to him too regarding physical and mental disabilities. via:


  6. Larry Sommers on said:

    And John, now that I think about it, you’re a great example of something… and as soon as I figure out what it is I’ll let you know.


  7. Your talks obviously offered a lot to the attendees. It’s great to know we are all normal. Thank you, and thank you also to Jennie for bringing me over to share in your wisdom.


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