Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. Sometimes life has other plans for you.
Since an abrupt change in my internship, I completed the rest of my internship requirements at Rainbow Homes. Rainbow Homes is a Christian-based non-profit organization that allows adults with cognitive disabilities to be able to live in their own apartments, learn important life skills, and become involved in the community around them. Although I only interned with them for a short period of time, I have learned so much from my residents that I work with.
Since saying yes and taking the leap of faith to try something new, I have grown from this experience. I have never felt so at home with such a lovely group of residents and staff. They welcomed me with open arms and open hearts. Every day I looked forward to walking into a door-full of smiling faces. Here is what my internship has taught me.
1. Just because someone has the medical diagnosis of a disability, it does not mean that they are disabled.
Every person at Rainbow has a different diagnosis, different medications, different treatments, etc. What they have in common is the fact that they are not disabled. They have their own feelings, thoughts, and actions. They have wonderful lives with friends and family who love them.
People on the outside can treat those with disabilities as less than capable. This is completely untrue. I am able to hold meaningful conversations with each and every individual. They all have their own interests and passions. They have daily schedules and regimens they follow. Some even work just like you and I. They all are able to live productive lives.
2. Humans are humans, no matter how they act, look, or talk.
So what if someone looks or acts different? So what if they talk "funny"? It does not make someone any less human. Every person is beautiful. Every person is unique. In fact, the world would be boring if we were all the same.
Sometimes when on outings in public, I noticed that people would stare. The stares seemed pitiful, full of wonder, or showed puzzlement. It is natural to do so, but to me I treat my residents as I do others would want to be treated: with dignity and respect.
These people are able to communicate what they want or need. They are able to accomplish what is needed to be done. They have dreams and aspirations. They have rights. They have free will. They are not different from us.
3. The little things in life can have a big impact.
To my residents, the little things mean the most. Whether if it's watching television or going bowling, they don't take anything for granted. They live in the moment. They cherish everything.
If I help them find the answer to a question, they are forever grateful. If I ask them about their day, their faces light up. They become elated when they explain their hobbies and family me. I have never seen anything like it.
It makes me want to step back and focus on what is in front of me. Sometimes it is easy to worry about the future. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in responsibilities. They remind me to let loose, have fun, and be positive.
4. Family isn't always blood.
At Rainbow, the residents are a close-knit group of individuals. They go on outings together. They do community service projects. They go on day or weekend trips. They cook dinner every night as one unit.
They are supportive of one another. They are each others' cheerleaders. They tease each other sarcastically. They care deeply about each others' well being. They never let anyone be left out.
They are a family--it's as simple as that. Just because they may not be related by blood, it does not make them any less close.
5. Kindness is the number one priority.
Without kindness, the world would be a dark place. The residents are determined to be kind. They genuinely show interest in those around them. They are compassionate. They never fail to make my day.
They open doors for others. They say please and thank you. They never say anything rude about one another. They always know how to make others smile.
I strive to be as kind as they are. They care about the world around them. They dare to aspire to make a change in the world, even if it's one small step at a time.