Sometimes I just don’t know, dude.
I work at the Arc of Anchorage as a direct support supervisor–which is just an impressive way to say I’m a caretaker of the developmentally disabled. As a sociology major in school, it’s a pretty great job that gets my feet wet into the concept of understanding a sect of society in the best way possible: standing right in the middle of it. It’s different from standing on the outside looking in. The work is real easy at times, at other times very difficult, but whichever side the see-saw tips more toward, the work is so satisfying. It feeds the soul heartily when you work at any job and give it your all, working as unto the Lord as Scripture puts is, and not just trading in parts of your soul for the dollar dollar bill. But today, when I sat in my driveway from work, I started thinking about things. Then I started to worry. Then I transformed that worry into prayer.
I’ve been at this beautiful gig for a year and a few months. During the first eight months or so, the majority of my clients (at work we’re supposed to call them “consumers” but I really can’t stand that term to define my clients, it almost sounds inhumane) have been grown adults who just need an extra push to reach their personal goals according to their respective ages, disabilities, and responsibilities. Since coming back from Texas to Alaska with my beautiful Allie right behind me, I now have three child clients. I’ve had some before, sure, but there’s something some people who’ve never dealt with the developmentally disabled don’t understand: you can’t just treat mentally handicapped or disabled adults like kids solely because they have a mental handicap or disability. If they’re adults, sometimes they need to be treated like adults, not lost puppies. And the kids, indeed, need to be treated like kids, never out of eyesight or earshot of love and providence. One newer client in particular with cerebral palsy absolutely breaks my heart because he’s so precious. I wake up around six in the morning to help him get dressed, eat breakfast, and get him ready for school five days a week. With his two parents busy handling their other two kids, they trust me to get him up and ready to face to ever-scary world. He’s eight, and he’s in my care. It’s scary sometimes.
Sometimes I think that’s the father in me talking. I’m not sure if men, socially speaking, are “supposed” to think thoughts like that. Soft talk like that emasculates men often I think, especially black men. Statistically, Asian American women and African American men are the two most stereotyped minorities in America (Dalmage & Rothman, 2011) , and having that “expectation” to be a bad, poor, deadbeat, or absent father has almost defined and designated a sort of masculinity within the population. But hey, I think about it… A lot! I think about what I wanna name my kids. I think about how many I wanna have, when I wanna have them (make them?), if I wanna have a boy or girl or both. And I think about how challenging my job can be at times, and I start to consider that maybe this gig, and the clients in my personal care, are preparing me for something a bit bigger in the near or far future. That something, being, fatherhood? Huh.
Today I met yet another new client. A child. Young kid, black, well-integrated and highly social. I’m reminded constantly by my case manager that I can’t just take care of these clients, get the cake and go home. As a man, I have to be a role model for them, for how they should be in the world and how to be presentable, act humbly, live carefully and love dangerously. My clients do a much better job of that than I do most of the time, anyway. And, as far as I’m concerned, so does Allie’s brother, who has down syndrome and gives love and concern flawlessly.
I hope my clients don’t turn out to be like me. When I become a father, I hope I can be more like my clients.
Just use me, Lord.