Reflections………………………………..Mentally Challenged



As I entered the large room which served as a gathering place for the ladies, Martha immediately recognized me and shouted, “Dr. Coker” and ran over and embraced me with a ‘bear’ hug.  Her smile was contagious as she began a barrage of questions.  coker_4_gary in suitEstablishing rapport for my task at hand, intellectual assessment of Martha, was not difficult.  Although I had seen Martha only on one previous occasion, she told me how much she loved me and immediately asked about my three boys.  At the previous meeting we had gone into detail, at her request, about my family, and knowing the boy’s birthdays seemed especially meaningful to her, all of which she recalled with amazing accuracy. After several visits, I can say unequivocally, I always felt loved when I left Martha.

Martha had been placed at Cloverbottom Mental Health Center as a young child because she was “different” and had been diagnosed as Educationally Mentally Retarded.  At the time of my visit Martha was 26 years old.

During the same period of time I went into the local school systems to complete  psycho-educational diagnostics for children who were not being challenged within the classroom.  The school staff felt they could be best served in a class of ‘gifted’ children, thus, the diagnostic testing.  These occasions were filled with professionalism and, at times required the best counseling, reflective listening and probing techniques I could muster.  I left these sessions enlightened, encouraged and exhausted.  It was out of these experiences and many others like them I drew some philosophical thoughts about life.

The poet Browning said “love is the energy of life.”  Where love is God is, therefore, love.  I have concluded love cannot behave itself unseemly.  You can put the most untutored persons into the highest society and if they have a reservoir of love in their heart they will not behave themselves unseemly.  They simply cannot do it. Martha loved everything, the daisy, and all things great and small that God had made. So with this simple passport she could mingle with any society and enter courts and palaces from Cloverbottom to the Peabody Hotel. 

We all know the term ‘gentleman’ but we seldom hear the word ‘gentlewoman’.  It means a gentle woman or a gentle man —a person who does things gently, with love.  The gentle person cannot, in the nature of things, act in an ungentle manner. In contrast, the ungentle soul, the inconsiderate, and the unsympathetic cannot do anything else. “Love doth not behave itself unseemly”

Martha, wherever you are, you taught me a lesson and “I love you.”





Retired in 2008 after 40+ years in education/psychology as researcher, teacher, administrator and college professor.
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