In the past, I’ve written about Liz, who works one morning a week at JeannieBird Baking Company on Main Street. Liz’s dream was to work in a coffee shop; now she does. She glows and is excited about the position whenever she is asked about her work. She is proud of what she does and routinely tells me how independent she is becoming in her job. The self-worth that comes from meaningful work can be transformative.
Last week, we had the unique privilege of watching another dream come true in real-time. Josh was one of the first people I met when beginning my work at Target. I spent 20 to 30 minutes getting to know Josh each morning while sitting in the office lobby. In the past few months, Josh’s living situation changed for the better, and now he goes straight from home to work and does not have time in the office each morning. I miss seeing him and regrettably spend less time hanging out in the lobby.
It has been Josh’s dream to be a stand-up comedian. On Thursday night last week, Josh realized that dream as he became a professional comedian opening a Brew Ha-Ha show at the Carroll Arts Center. He had a great set, told some hilariously funny jokes, and generally had the audience holding their sides from laughter. The audience was larger than any of the other installments of the Brew Ha-Ha series I attended, and I know the turnout was directly related to Josh’s performance. Toward the end of the evening, Josh came back to sit near me with an envelope in hand. His name was written in big blue letters. He showed me that it contained his wages for the set. If you get paid to do something, you are a professional. Josh is a professional comedian, and I am not sure I have ever seen someone as excited and full of pride.
The headliner, Rev T-Mac, is a local comedian who works in a human services agency during the day. His employment history includes time with Target Community and Educational Services and getting to know Josh.
As a part of his opening bit, he spoke about his work being based on services to those with disabilities and about walking up to the theater before the show to find a man using a wheelchair. Instinctively, T-Mac pushed the man into the theater. He mused that his action was not part of some motive but a genuine response to the needs of another human. There was nothing about this man that T-Mac needed to fix, just a door that needed to be opened.
Those of us who engage in work serving others understand the privilege of being able to open that door. One looking in from the outside might need help understanding this. Working with those with disabilities is not about fixing someone, and it is not martyrdom. It is not some altruistic experience to make us feel better about ourselves. Our motivation comes from the ability to look around the world and see a reality where the doors are only sometimes open to everyone. Most people can see that reality, but some get pissed off about it and decide to open doors.
Watching Liz and Josh make it through those doors and step into the reality of their dreams is the best thing in the world.