"Seeing" things a little differently
For the past nine years I’ve been employed with our cities local Arc foundation which is a day program for people with developmental disabilities. In other words, people with mental illness, mental retardation, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders and many more. In our facility we teach vocational training skills to hopefully employ these people out in the community in “real” jobs. We operate a woodshop/assembly department that produces outdoor furniture that we sell to the public, as well as a hydroponic greenhouse that grows organic lettuce that we sell to local restaurants. Our goal is create a work environment with instructors assisting in teaching the skills needed to land them a job one day.
Before I began working here I never had any experience with mentally challenged people. I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew that I had the compassion because of my own disability, albeit mine was just a physical challenge. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that they are just like the rest of us but maybe slower to learn or understand concepts. Yes, many of them have behavioral issues that we deal with on a daily basis, they need more supervision or support in all areas of living. They get paid small wages for their work here and most of them are very proud of their jobs. You should see their faces light up with joy when they receive those small paychecks on friday’s!
They come from different backgrounds, some with loving families supporting them and others who were mistreated, abused or abandoned at birth. The common thread among everyone is they are all real people with real emotions. They grieve when a friend passes away, laugh when something is funny, love or could be sexually attracted to another and get angry when they feel as if they have been wronged.
I’ve learned also that music is the international language of this world. No matter your race, background or language that you speak…..music creates happiness in everyone! A party at our workplace is something to behold. Talk about dancing as if no one were watching! They do not know to be self conscious or afraid of much…..If only we could learn some of these lessons!
I’ve been blessed to witness two beautiful People with Down’s Syndrome love each other for years, such a sweet love, only seeing each other at work. Virginia and Dono would sit together at lunch everyday and hold hands until time to go back to work. Virginia regressed with dementia and it became more and more difficult for her to do her daily routine. I watched as Dono would feed her spoonfuls of food telling her he loved her and kiss her on the cheek while she just stared into space. I was able to take Dono to visit her in the nursing home just two weeks before she passed away. He held her hand and told her how much he loved her. Most of us would give anything for a love as sweet and pure as that.
They don’t have as many opportunities as we do…..like getting married, or experiencing families, spending time with each other. They continue to enjoy their lives instead of feeling sorry for themselves. I’ve realized the “human spirit” cannot and will not be smothered. We as human beings have an inner spirit that cannot be denied.
Count your blessings my dear readers and be grateful for your time in this life, no matter what your circumstances. Dig into your inner spirit that never gives up, nurture it and love yourselves. YOU are important, make your role in this life count….even if it’s just to spread smiles and joy to others in your day-to-day living. find that inner peace within…..