Saturday, July 16, 2011

going to mass

Sometimes part of my responsibilities for my new job include going along with the core members to the religious service of their choice. So, for the past couple weeks I've attended Saturday evening mass at a nearby Catholic church with two of our core members.

One of them is a very devout Catholic. He LOVES nuns and priests and monks and will talk about them nonstop. We have a volunteer who comes every so often who is a Jesuit and this core member will ask him all sorts of questions and talk forever about the nuns at a local convent that he knows.

He also enjoys worship and singing. His singing is fairly high pitched and when he enjoys the song he is singing, he can get pretty loud.

Well, this evening he especially enjoyed the hymn choices.

I go back and forth about this. On the one hand, I appreciate that he is enjoying himself. I like that he is having a good time and engaging in worship. I also know him and his personality and I know that he is a man with some developmental disabilities and so I have some understanding about why he is singing the way that he is. Also, his singing doesn't bother me, personally. I actually get kind of a kick out of it.

But, I also understand that there are many other people in that sanctuary. There are many people who do not know him, who might not know that he has developmental disabilities, and so they don't know why he is singing that way. Some people might find it loud and think it interferes with their ability to worship (in fact, I was told that a previous assistant was asked if, on days that choir sang, they would sit on the other side of the sanctuary because his singing has been known to make it difficult for them).

So, I struggle with whether or not to say something to him. Do I ask him to not sing so loud? Do I tell him that the volume of his singing might interfere with other people? And if I do, what affect will this have? Will it make him self-conscious? Will he be less likely to engage in worship at all? Will it make him feel uncomfortable in that setting? Or will it even have any effect at all? He has been know to be stubborn, and to do what he wants to regardless of how much you beg or plead or try to bribe him with the promise of chocolate cake. So, it might not even do any good to say something to him about it.

Or, do I let him sing as loud as he wants? Do I go with the line of thought that he has every right to participate in worship in a way that is meaningful to him and if he sings a little high and a little loud, it's not that big of a deal, especially because he only sings during the appropriate times. It's not like he's singing loudly while the priest is preaching.

So, anyway, all this was running through my head tonight at mass while he was getting into one of the hymns. He was singing and bouncing back and forth on his feet and every once in a while he'd throw in a snap or two. It seemed a little loud to me, and I was worried what other people were thinking or saying. Or maybe they were even laughing at him. But I couldn't bring myself to say anything because he was enjoying himself so much.

But then, after mass as we were headed out of the sanctuary, a man who was two rows behind us during the service tapped me on the arm and said, "I think we all should worship like that."

And that was just what I needed to hear tonight.

Friday, July 8, 2011

i like you!

Sometimes, part of my responsibilities for my new job include driving some of our core members to their job at a sheltered workshop. The first few times I went, I simply rode along with one of my coworkers driving, so that I could learn the route and figure it out. It took me a few days (and actually some attempts on my own during time off) for me to get comfortable with the route and the routine of driving to our two other houses, picking up the core members, driving to the workshop, walking inside and accompanying them to their different work stations, and then driving home. But I got into the groove and thought I had everything figured out.

That's when they switched it up on me. They decided to do some work on the parking lot. So the large parking lot where all of the buses would load and unload is now being dug up and expanded and resurfaced and all that fun stuff. Which means that the buses don't park there anymore. They now use the small lot which was used by the vans. Now dropping off and picking up people from this workshop is quite the ordeal. There are always at least three staff members in bright yellow vests directing traffic. They motion you in to park in the part of the larger parking lot that isn't being worked on, and you're not supposed to leave your vehicle unattended. Instead, they radio in and ask for the people you are picking up to be brought out. It's really quite the production.

What I do, however, is drive past this parking lot and into the upper lot which is where all of the employees and staff park. I then have to get out of my van, walk down the hill, around the usable portion of the larger parking lot, passed the yellow-vested staff members and into the building. Then I can go about dropping off or collecting my core members the way I've grown accustomed to. Apparently, not very many people do this, but the staff members expressed their appreciation to me the other day because this new modified pick-up and drop-off routine is really meant for those with mobility issues, like people in wheelchairs or with walkers or some other assistive device. It is preferred that those who are able would park in the upper lot and walk down. But not everyone follows along with this and they opt for the ease of being able to sit in their vans and dropping people off or having them brought out to them.

But, really, I prefer to be able to go in. I've gotten to know some of the other clients (I think that's what they call them) who work in the workshop. I've learned their names and they say hello and give me fives and "knuckles" when they see me. One guy has even said he's going to ask his mom if he can come over to my house.

There is one guy, in particular, who I've really grown to appreciate. He's always in the same spot, and I have to walk right by him to drop off one of my core members. He's in a wheelchair, and I learned the other day that he's actually deaf. But he can say some things and every day I walk by him he says the same thing to me. With a smile and a wave he says, "I like you! I like you!" I always smile and wave back and say "I like you, too!" I'm not sure if he can read lips, but I know he knows what I'm saying. One day, I walked past him while he was in the middle of another activity and I didn't say or do anything to bother him, but as I got a little way passed him I could hear him shouting it, so I turned and there he was, smiling and waving at me and telling me he likes me.

And this alone makes the inconvenience of the extra walking and maneuvering worth it. I don't mind that it takes more time to walk my people inside. Because I get the reminder that no matter what else happens that day, no matter how much I mess up or how many mistakes I make or how many things I forget to do or how little patience I seem to have or how miserable of a day I might be having that this one person likes me and he is so excited to let me know that.