The mission of our organization is to provide employment and vocational training for adults with developmental disabilities as well as other intellectual and physical challenges.
But, in reality, what happens at the Meadows is far more important than that.
The individuals we employ come from every walk of life. They have a wide variety of experiences and abilities. Some of them attempted to work in the community but for whatever reasons they were not successful. This led them to the Meadows where they found a place that changed their lives.
On the other hand, we have people who have been with us from our inception back in 1983. Their thirty-five years of service demonstrate incredible dedication and commitment. Others have joined us at various stages of their lives and for many different reasons.
But whatever situation brought them to us, we know that it is a serious mistake to focus solely on their disabilities. Each one of these men and women are so much more than their diagnosis.
Every person at the Meadows has qualities and characteristics that are unique to them and no one else. That is why it’s wrong to make assumptions about people with intellectual challenges.
A person with Down syndrome is not like every other person with an extra chromosome. An individual with autism does not represent anyone else on the spectrum. Someone with a traumatic brain injury does not share the same challenges as others with that medical condition. An individual who has had a brain tumor has a different experience than someone else with the same diagnosis.
And it’s because of their uncommon perspective that they’re able to teach the rest of us about life. They define what success really means. They demonstrate, in powerful ways, how human beings should treat each other. They present an example of how the world could be if we would just learn to accept each other instead of judging.
Spending time with them and seeing firsthand how they creatively handle personal challenges makes me far less likely to complain about my own problems. They serve as a constant reminder not to take my life for granted.
But despite difficulty with motor skills, dealing with speech disorders or negotiating mobility issues, the men and women we employ are relentlessly upbeat and enthusiastic. They rarely get down about any particular aspect of their life. They take each day as if comes and make the most of it. They do not waste time dwelling on what could be or feeling regret for the way things are. They are too busy living their lives.
Their focus is on today – not the past.
They also have an amazing capacity to forgive and let go, and that is fortunate because many of them have faced mistreatment at the hands of others. Everything from a lack of respect to outright bullying has been a part of at least some of their lives. But their ability to move past that type of behavior has allowed them to become stronger people who are willing to look forward and not be weighed down by things they cannot change.
That is a level of wisdom we should all attempt to achieve.
No matter what job you have, it is unlikely that you enjoy the kind of satisfaction that comes with working with people who have developmental disabilities.
Because of the remarkable men and women we are privileged to serve, no two days at the Meadows are exactly alike. Each one is an adventure in its own way. There are moments that are hilarious and other times that touch your heart.
But through it all, it is our employees who make the work experience so rewarding.