In our culture, when a teen is really different, the adults in his life often feel a crushing pressure to try to fix him and to get him to conform. “How will he ever succeed in this world?” we ask.
Joey Ramone’s brother, Mickey Leigh, had this to say about how his brother’s unique gifts were supported:
“Fortunately for my brother, our mother was an incredibly nourishing person, and raised us in such a way to never think of any individual as useless because they may not be on a par with the status quo. That because a person might be struggling with whatever mental or physical condition they have been afflicted with, it does not mean they have absolutely nothing within them to offer society, or to contribute, be it artistically or another way. She instilled that in me, and though it was very difficult to grow up sharing a room with someone turning lights on and off, running the water in the bathroom for hours and hours, unable to throw things away; or to walk to school with him as he stepped on and off the curb while the other kids pointed and laughed- due to the way my mother raised me I was about as sensitive as a younger brother could possibly be.
“If I had been like a jock, or macho type of kid, I don’t think he would have fared as well. I’ll admit I lost it several times, but l never treated him as a hopeless lump of flesh. I encouraged him as much as possible, taught him how to play the guitar, and encouraged him to get into bands.
“When he found himself unable to deal with his problem and felt suicidal, he voluntarily admitted himself to St Vincent’s Psychiatric Ward for evaluation. That was when I told him ‘don’t worry, there’s a little genius in every madman.’
“We were not your average family. Our parents got divorced when we were very young. Our mother was an artist who encouraged us to recognize and express our individuality. I knew we were different from the other kids. My brother was not normal, and we lived in the same room, so neither was I. It was impossible for me to be. I shared his problems right along side him, and knew I had to, like it or not. We were both freaks. Fortunately he was able to tap into his inner strengths and realize them, unleash the incredible talent he had within him, and was in an environment that allowed him to thrive. And as fate would have it, thanks to rock & roll, it worked out pretty damn well for him.”
Supporting and accepting a teen for being exactly who he or she is — that’s where it all starts at Open Doors, whether it’s through our regular program or our Summer Art Program. There are many, many ways to be in the world — many ways to make a living, and many ways to contribute. Help us explore these many ways with our teens: donate or contact us to find out more.