In one of the first posts I made on this blog in 2011, I wrote about the story of Waddie Welcome, as told by Susan Earl and Tom Kohler in their moving book Waddie Welcome and the Beloved Community.
I’ll quote from my own post:
A reader of Waddie Welcome and the Beloved Community is first struck by the bold, strange cover. The photo depicts a hand-crafted collage of a phonebook, compiled over decades by Addie Reeves.
Ms. Reeves was a lifelong friend of Mr. Waddie Welcome, whose life and legacy have given hope to countless others who face ostracism and isolation from their communities because of developmental disabilities.
The phonebook on the cover becomes a metaphor for many things: for the independent spirit, for self-reliance, for reuse of what is normally thrown away — and for living with an awareness that the miraculous can be found in the everyday.
Born in 1914, Mr. Welcome spent the first part of his life as a member of his family and a member of his community. But later he would be isolated for years in a nursing home, including one far from Savannah.
In Waddie Welcome and the Beloved Community, authors Tom Kohler and Susan Earl chronicle Mr. Welcome’s physical and spiritual journey as a group of loosely affiliated members of the broader Savannah community worked with Mr. Welcome to secure his return to Savannah — and to life with a family rather than in an institution.
Now, more than a decade after Mr. Welcome’s death, Waddie Welcome and the Beloved Community is being read as part of a worldwide effort to mobilize communities around the causes inherent in Mr. Welcome’s story.
I am not going to try to retell the story here. There’s more about the book and recent efforts at http://www.waddiewelcome.com. This op-ed in the Savannah Morning News after [Addie Reeves’] death in 2001 at age 100 contains more information about Ms. Reeves: Being thy brother’s keeper. This great post on Al Etmanski’s blog talks about Waddie Welcome as a crusader for civil rights in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Information about the Waddie Welcome Archive, a collection of photos of hand-painted signs from the neighborhood where Mr. Welcome grew up can be found here.
All that was written a year ago.
Now there’s a Cincinnati-based effort on Kickstarter, spearheaded by Nikki Booker, to turn the story of Waddie Welcome into a play. Check out the project video:
From the project description:
The story of Waddie Welcome and the Beloved Community spoke to Nikki Booker after she heard it at a public reading last year. Immediately, she began engaging in doing public readings with various community groups in Cincinnati, and hosting a reading her own home.
As part of Nikki’s fourth and final year of Starfire U, a post-secondary program designed for people with disabilities to have the opportunity to explore and discover their gifts and talents, Nikki has decided to bring the story of Mr. Welcome and his circle to the stage.
With 28 days still to go in the campaign, over $1300 of the $3000 project goal has been raised. But don’t get complacent. I’m going to make a donation to this worthy project. And I sure hope some of you will too.