All too often, we take the little things for granted. We go through our day thinking everything we have is owed to us, like a God given birthright. These are the times it’s good to have some perspective interjected into our world view. That’s why working with the people RSS supports is so important to me. The lessons they teach us are far more important than what they get in return. Here’s an example.
Chuck Smith’s recent move is one of those kinds of lessons. He has finally moved into a place of his own after living for decades in a group home. This change didn’t happen overnight. He’s worked toward it for years. He’s held a steady job with the same employer for longer than most people that I know. As is usually the case with folks in disability services, Chuck has faced more hurdles than you or I would in getting to move into his new apartment. For better or worse, one of the biggest roadblocks to moving into a less structured environment are the good intentions of support staff. Too often, dignity of risk only extends as far as staff’s comfort level for their clients. But Chuck knew he was capable of living on his own, and nothing was going to keep him from that.
I sat down with Chuck on a recent sunny early spring day to hear his thoughts on his new apartment, and pretty much anything else he wanted to talk about. Chuck’s a gregarious man, with wide pale blue eyes darting about excitedly, and an ever present grin lighting up his new living room. He was quick to point out where he’s going to hang some pictures, and what he wants to get to decorate his apartment. He has a clear idea of what he wants to do to make this apartment his home.
When asked to compare living in his own apartment to life in the group home, Chuck drew a deep breath coupled with an overly dramatized eye roll. I knew there’d be a lot of answer coming.
“Well,” He started. “I get to do what I want.”
He went on to explain how at the group home most of the time he did things as part of a larger group. That wasn’t to say his choices and preferences weren’t taken into consideration, but that because he shared staff and time, he didn’t much opportunity where it was just about him. Chuck described it this way. In the group home, everyone ate what was on the menu for dinner. Now he gets to have whatever he went shopping for and have the staff make it that night.
Another difference is his entertainment. Country music is one of his passions, and now he can jam out in the comfort of his favorite recliner in the living room without disturbing anyone. He can enjoy his music anywhere, and everywhere, in his home. You see, Chuck likes his music with “Lots and lots of bass.” He didn’t demonstrate for me just how much bass and how loud, but judging by the excitement in his eyes, he was very pleased with the lesser constraints of his new living situation.
It surprised me to find out that he had been on a list for a potential move to Great Falls. When asked about it, he explained his sister lives there. But since getting his own apartment, he has opted to stay in the area. He’d rather she comes to visit him here sometime. It’ll give him a chance to show off the new apartment. Chuck is quickly building connections to his new community. He is excited to try out the Laurel bowling alley and compare it to the T & C Lanes he used to frequent, and see if the local Walmart really is better than the one in the Heights. When he found out Laurel has one of the biggest Fourth of July firework displays in the state, and that he could watch it from his own front yard, his excitement bubbled out with a giggle.
It’s those little things all right, lots and lots of little things that make it all worthwhile. When you get to see how those little things changes lives in a big way, that’s what we do every day. Chuck may have been the one who moved, the one whose lot in life is better because of lots of little changes, but it’s all of us that know and support people like Chuck whose lives are enriched by being part of their successes.