Her brown hair is short and it sports a utilitarian style. Her uniform was clean and pressed with precision. Last year, she held an important position with the Federal government in Washington, DC. She has a Master’s degree in management. Yet, through no fault of her own, she is now working for less than $12 an hour, doing the same job she did while she was in high school. Her new job puts her in close contact with Special Gathering members.
Yesterday, as I approached her, I could see the tears reaming her eyes. “How are you?” I asked.
“I can’t believe my life has come to this,” she said, marking a check list and reviewing the things that needed to be done to keep the people she oversees safe. She turned away from me so that I could not see the lone tear that pierced her left cheek.
I took her in my arms and hugged her. We had bonded from the first time we met because she is a devoted Christian and she attends the same church that I’ve had close connections with for years. Her greatest concern isn’t the amount of money that she is making. It is that by working with our members on Sundays, she is not able to attend her church. I’ve invited her to come to Special Gathering, instead; but she isn’t able to break away and come.
As our members bounded away from her a few hours later, I couldn’t help but contrast their lives with this caregiver’s. I also saw myself in the caregiver’s position; and I wished that I could more easily identify with my members. These past two weeks have been a struggle for me. I can identify with the middle-aged woman who found her life in shambles. No, my situation isn’t as tragic as hers. However, circumstances have definitely changed.
Is there an answer for me and for her? I saw that the answer was slapping me in the face. Our members have the same concerns of any other adult. They have bills to pay. They have boyfriend/girlfriend issues. They have problems with the people the work with and the people with whom they live. Their bosses aren’t always fair. They have health issues. Their aging parents have delicate health concerns. But they bound from place to place happy to be alive.
Sure there are those within the mentally challenged community who live with depression. Others are just plain aggravating or even mean. But as a population, they have so much that could be distracting and oppressive; and yet they determine to see the best for themselves and for their families. Add a relationship with Lord and we find the most positive and resilient people I’ve ever met.
Here are several things that I’ve found that the mentally challenged community does that helps them to maintain their mental stability in the face of trauma.
- They continue to laugh at themselves and with each other. Laughter is still the best medicine.
- They maintain a close-knit community. They work together, dance together, play together and vacation together.
- They are repeatedly trained to walk away from offensive situations, rather than stew about misunderstandings. This is a great skill that we should all practice daily.
Each of us are able to make decisions that can and should alter our lives. Most of these decisions are simply deciding to allow God to fight our battles and laugh in the face of hard circumstances. Of course, keeping in daily contact with the Lord, family and Christian friends can help change our lives in the middle of difficult circumstances.