The following is a quote I got in an email from Beliefnet.com:
The life of the individual only has meaning insofar as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler and more beautiful. Life is sacred that is to say, it is the supreme value to which all other values are subordinate.
This quote helps me feel better about some of the choices I've made in my life. For instance:
I have a Magna Cum Laude degree in Finance from a private college in Utah, and could have chosen a career path that brought me more "success" in the eyes of the world. And certainly near-empty cupboards and scrounging in the couch for gas money in the days before payday isn't the life of which I dreamed. But the job I have now is the most fulfilling I've ever had ... because I see the difference I'm making in the lives of other people every day I go into work.
The people with whom I work are adults with MR/DD (mental retardation and developmental disabilities). They also have a host of other medical and psychiatric issues. Neither they, nor I, will ever have a corner suite in the tallest office building in town. For some of the lower functioning residents, learning to place their silverware beside their plate (something most of us take for granted) is a monumental victory. The "higher functioning" residents learn impulse control and anger management. The goal for all of the residents is to be able to live outside the facility, independently or in a group home...but some will never do so. But that doesn't mean that their lives don't have meaning or that they are 2nd-class citizens.
One of the ladies with whom I work is 73 years old. She was "normal" until just over a year old, when a high fever caused her to start having seizures. That she has lived this long is nothing short of astounding. She laughs most of the day...full, throaty, head thrown back, face turning red guffaws. I don't laugh that much now ... and people consider I have the "better" life. My life is richer for knowing her. In fact, I want to be like her when I grow up. *LOL*
I'm not saying this to get "good for you" comments from other people or to say that I have chosen a "higher" path. I have chosen my path ... one that works for me. It takes all kinds of people and all types of paths to make society function.
I do have to get on a soapbox for a moment here about my work. The facility is one of the largest ICF's (intermediate care facilities) for the MR population in Kentucky. It is located on prime real estate in the center of town. The land was donated by a local businessman with the stipulation if the facility ever closed, the land would revert back to him. For years now, various governmental agencies have been finding numerous faults with the care practices at the facility ... mostly on the administrative end of things, but certainly some cases of shameful abuse has occurred. There was one article in the local paper in the time I've worked at the facility that had something nice to say about it (and I nearly fell out of my chair when I read it)!
But what most people seem to overlook is that by and large, the residents would not get better care elsewhere. We are being pressured to "herd 'em up and move 'em out", treating our residents as little better than cattle. These people are not units to be managed, they are human beings with dreams and aspirations, likes and dislikes ... the same as all us "normal" folk.