I often think back on my time working with people with disabilities. For more than two years I was a “community supporter” for three adults sharing a home. Two of the adults had cerebral palsy, and one had Down’s syndrome.
On weekends I would spend 20 hours straight with these people. A few times I spent 48 hours straight with them. I’d get there, help them make dinner, and eat dinner with them. I’d do household chores with them, help them with their personal hygiene, and take them for outings.
I’d do my best to help them achieve their “goals.” Each one had specific goals written down on paper, like folding the laundry, cutting vegetables for meals, or meeting new people. At the end of the day I had to write down the ways that they achieved their goals. I think that helped the agency sponsoring these adults get government funding.
I still remember one of my first afternoons working at the home. I had come into work feeling pretty down. I think I was upset about a long distance relationship I was in. But as I was sitting on the porch with one of the women with cerebral palsy, I realized I didn’t have it so bad.
Here I was, with no health problems, upset about my life. And there she was, bound to a wheelchair with no hand use, exuding positivity. I remember she kept laughing as she babbled about her favorite doctor, and all the nice things the doctor had told her that morning. After spending an hour or so with this woman I realized that I was no longer sad. In fact, I was feeling very lucky and content.
That is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned, and I try my best not to forget it.
I also learned to accept uncomfortable situations I can’t control. I would bring the woman I just mentioned to church every Saturday evening because that was something she wanted to do. Because it was an evening service with relatively few attendees, it was held in a small room in the church’s basement. (more…)