I have passed my 15 year mark of working for the State. From Mental Health and Mental Retardation to The Department of Aging and Disability. From The Corpus Christi State School to the Denton State Supported Living Center; at both facilities I have been a direct care staff working alongside many many other great people. We strive to care for the Mentally Disabled of our society, the Forgotten Citizen. It is a very challenging field; yet, necessary and dutiful and rewarding experience. For many of the individuals included among this population, we the Care-giving Staff are the only "Family" a lot of these folks will ever have in their lives. For several (or the few) of them whose families are around, we are still taken in becoming their loved one. You can not help but get close to these individuals, residents, clients, people served - 'humans' that we work with. After a while you begin to view them as members of your own family as well.
Over the past 15 years of working with the mentally challenged I have seen several individuals pass away. From each I have taken an experience and a lesson to add to my own understanding of life. Life is precious, no matter the form in which it takes. A society that cares for the weakest among its people gains more than it can receive. Story after story after story. Countless experiences.
The one thing I've learned? We are all the same. Spirits encased in flesh. We all have needs and the greatest of which it to have a relationship with others. I am glad, blessed and honored to have had the privileged to work with such a population of individuals. For we are all only a 'hair's breadth' away from being just like these frail minded and physically limited people. We take so much for granted: our ability to think, speech, mobility, housing, independence and freedoms that grow from there. I realize we can not sit about and minutely count our "blessings" but we can appreciate and care for those in our own circle of influence. From helping a lost stranger read a map, change a tire, open the door, hold the elevator, call out stranger danger to kids at the park; just simply taking an extra step beyond 'yourself' is giving back... Wouldn't you want others to extend a hand to you in a crisis?