The Dignity of Risk

I want to tell you a little about the work I do.

There is a non-profit organization known as Mosaic, it was started by members of the Lutheran church and is a Christian organization. The mission of this group is to provide adults with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to live independent lives. Many of my clients grew up in institutions where they were treated like chattel, never being allowed to mingle with “normal” people, never given a chance to try anything on their own, always treated like children.

Let me tell you something about some of the folks I work with. They can hold jobs. They can cook for themselves. They can volunteer at their churches. Some even can drive and get married, start a family.

But they will never find out unless someone gives them a chance to fail first. 

Sometimes in our efforts to help the disabled we tend to  infantilize them. We overly coddle them to try and make ourselves feel better, because disability makes us uncomfortable. In the end, all we do is unintentionally rob them of their dignity.

In the training I took prior to beginning this line of work we learned about something called “The Dignity of Risk”.  A lot of folks in my town didn’t like the idea of “retarded” people living independently in their communities. They were fearful of someone with Down’s Syndrome or Fragile X or Williams Syndrome living outside of an institution.

“What if they get lost in town?”

‘What if they get too loud during church services?”

“What if they wreck their cars?”

“What if they can’t pay their bills?”

A million of questions similar arose. People weren’t trying to be cruel, but they just didn’t understand that part of being a human being, with or without a disability, is the ability to take risks and learn from them. The non-disabled are given countless opportunities to make decisions, both good and bad. The disabled however, are denied these opportunities.

Below is a transcript written by a parent of a child who has a disability. It serves as the foundation of why I chose the work I chose, and a constant reminder that I am working with people who just happen to have a disability, not disableds who just happen to be people.

I’m not saying those with disabilities may not need our help sometimes, but lets stop “helping” them so much that we hurt them.

God bless,

Housewife at work.

THE DIGNITY OF RISK
(A parent whose son is in a supported work program in Richmond, VA)  
What if you never got to make a mistake?  
What if your money was always kept in an envelope where you couldn’t get it?  
What if you were never given a chance to do well at something?  
What if you were always treated like a child?  
What if your only chance to be with people different from you was with your own family?  
What if the job you did was not useful?  
What if you never got to make a decision?  
What if the only risky thing you could do was to act out?  
What if you couldn’t go outside because the last time you went it rained?  
What if you took the wrong bus once and now you can’t take another one?  
What if you got  into trouble and were sent away  and  you couldn’t come back because  they  always
remember your “trouble”?  
What if you worked and got paid $.46 an hour?  
What if you had to wear your winter coat when it rained because it was all you had?  
What if you had no privacy?  
What if you could do part of the grocery shopping but weren’t allowed to do any because you weren’t able to
do all of the shopping?  
What if you spent three hours every day just waiting?  
What if you grew old and never knew adulthood?  
What if you never got a chance?

Whew!

So i’ve been interviewing at a couple of places in town over the past week. Mostly just looking for jobs that will provide a better income with more time at home.

I was actually offered one job already. It’s fantastic, but I haven’t accepted yet because I had a WONDERFUL interview with a lending institution that I want very badly. It would provide me with a lot more time at home and a much better income. Plus great benefits. I am hoping to hear back from them in a day or two.

Jobs are so hard to come by right now, especially jobs as good as the ones i’m looking at right now. I feel very grateful that the Lord has given me the opportunity to interview with both companies. So many are struggling just to get one interview, and i’ve interviewed with several.

God is good. Wish me luck.

-Housewife at Work

Doing “help meet” my own way.

One of the biggest reasons I created this blog was to support Christian women who believe in traditional gender roles, but still work outside of the home for one reason or another. That’s kind of the situation i’m in now, and I understand how tough it can be. A lot of my working mother co-workers cannot relate to the desire to stay home full time, as they honestly enjoy working and don’t want to be a homemaker. On the other hand, I sometimes feel judged by my friends who are blessed enough to stay home full time. So that frequently leaves me feeling defensive, frustrated and honestly pretty lonely.

Let me tell you where i’m at right now and how I got there.

I am a 24 year old wife, mother and somewhat new Christian. I have many friends who are stay-at-home mothers and/or wives and i’ve always been jealous. I know without hesitation that at some point the Lord will ask me to put aside my work outside of the home and ask me to make my family my full-time job. However, he hasn’t asked that of me yet. My husband is a full-time student who is enrolled in a program that will let him graduate with both his Bachelor’s and his Master’s degrees. His schedule is insane, and being that my husband is considerably older than most traditional students, this program is his only shot at beginning a career in a timely manner. This leaves him unable to have a job while in school, but university isn’t free. Neither is food, clothing, car insurance, rent, medical expenses and so on….

Which leaves me working as a waitress in a restaurant.

This is a less-than-ideal situation, and I was quite resistant to the idea of working in the beginning. My view of roles in a marriage were very narrowly defined. Husband worked out of the home, wife worked IN the home. That’s how I wanted it in my marriage. Luckily, God worked on my heart and helped prepare me to step out of my comfort zone, because I would certainly need it. One day before my husband enrolled in college I was mulling (okay, pouting…) over the possibly having to work outside of the home if my husband was to go to school. I was reading my Bible and came across a very well-known verse in Genesis.

“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a help meet for him”

Uh, I felt like an idiot. Just like Eve was created to be a helper to husband, I was created to help mine. My husband needed this education path, and I was designed to help him get through it.

So I sucked it up, and got to work. Oddly I felt very at peace working, which helped me know I was going the direction God wanted me to. I felt very convinced that once my husband had his degree I would have my chance to be a full-time “housewife” like I dreamed. That knowledge comforted me greatly and has helped me hang on through the long days.

I’m not going to pretend it’s easy. I’m living on borrowed grace every day just to keep it all together. I don’t know if it’s harder to be a stay-at-home wife/mom or a working wife/mom. Frankly as someone who has now done both, they each have their own set of challenges so I fail to understand the debate on the whole subject. But I do know this; i’m stretched very thin as both the domestic leader and the breadwinner in my house. I need encouragement and support (and a blog to unwind on…), just like any other wife. I saw tons of blogs for the stay-at-home mommies, and I sure do love the wisdom of these women. Again though, there was a feeling that I wasn’t quite as good as they were. I feel rather guilty sometimes reading their adventures homeschooling and keeping their homes. Even though I had the confirmation through prayer that I was doing the right thing, I still felt inadequate. Then I was led to another popular verse. Proverbs 31:10-31, or what I like to call “the biblical measure of a ridiculously awesome wife.”

Lines 13, 14, 16, 24 and 31 specifically deal with a woman who does manual labor in the fields, who puts together clothing and other crafts then goes to the market to sell them. She works outside the home to support her family too. Not only is she not inadequate, but she is called [i]priceless above rubies[/i].

I don’t know where the Lord has led you in your marriage. You may be working full time outside of the home, or working full time within the home. You might be joyful in your domestic duties or flustered beyond belief.

But know this, if you are doing your best to take care of your family and leaning on the Lord in the ways you fall short, you are quite adequate. : )