Monday, April 16, 2012

The Simple Things

The last six months I have been working in a group home for developmentally disabled adults.  This job has had a tremendous impact on me.  I have been through some very tough challenges.  Yet I have learned so much about life by observing the joy that these folks take in the simple things.  For example, just last night one of my favorite residents waved goodbye and blew a goodnight kiss to the basketball hoop in the backyard.  Despite his inability to walk on his own he nonetheless feels alive and powerful when we shoot hoops together.
I have been working in this house 32 hrs every week.  There are six full time residents in their late twenties to late thirties.  They display a wide range of diagnosis.  Some are severely mentally retarded, some have profound autistic tendencies, and one person, on top of being mentally retarded has the physical limitations that come with having cerebral palsy.

Simply put, these guys, at times of course, are some of the most grateful human beings I have ever come across.  They absorb themselves in the simple things that bring them joy.  While we tend to over complicate our lives with things that usually do not have much importance we tend to miss out on the profoundness that comes with fully enjoying the simple things in life.  I do not attribute their "absorption into the simple things" as being part of their condition, but rather I see it as their innate ability to be fully present in each moment [even if they cannot reflect on the situation the way you or I can]. 

Could you imagine being completely content by staring out the window for hours and hours, watching the cars go by, or by making a basketball shot, or by simply taking a car ride to put gas in the house van?  Believe me, these guys are no angels.  They get in fights with each other, they at times become defiant in response to staff recommendations, and they have me cleaning up things that you would rather me not talk about.  But here me out when I say this; I believe these guys are brave spirits that have walked into this life with these severe limitations to experience a life of profound challenge thus automatically enhancing their rapid self evolution. 

Imagine how much you would grow if you were "forced" to make peace with life if you couldn't even speak normally [even if you knew exactly what was going on around you], or if you couldn't walk without the assistance of a staff member while all that you wanted to do was be an independent and self-sufficient man, or if you had to have someone wipe your butt because you could not do it on your own?

In a bittersweet moment this weekend I gave the house manager my resignation letter.  In 4 weeks I leave New York in search for a new life in Berkeley California.  But now I will take a sense of perspective and gratefulness that I could have only acquired though living with these brave individuals.  Throughout my time working in this house as a direct care counselor I have learned to be grateful for the amazing abilities life has granted me with.  I can see!  I can walk!  I can think!  And oh yes, I can wipe my own butt!  Oh the simple yet profound joy of being able to roam this beautiful world...and to take in the sights and sounds of this amazing life....

Joy is as simple as that; Perceptual absorption, a moment to moment awareness, on the what is that is occurring all around you.  This could be the most joyful and liberating experience any person could ever have.  I have to thank these brave spirits for teaching me this in a whole new light.

No comments:

Post a Comment