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Not This Granny!

Years ago at the place of my employment, a huge government facility for the developmentally challenged, they announced a 25 year plan for closure. And so the wheels were set in motion of minimizing and downsizing. It was so very subtle at first, so slow and subtle in fact, that it hardly seemed real being so far ahead in the future. A scheme, Challenges and Opportunities, was introduced in preparation for this distant ending.

I’d say that the first 10-15 years held little change to everyday life for residents and staff, at least not a lot that we knew about or noticed. Then we gradually began to prepare people for discharge back into their home communities, their places of origin. Slowly this dominated and impacted everything we said and did with discharge planning and conferences occurring more and more frequently until it was weekly and then eventually daily. The imminent closure became very real. It was going to happen.

All this time we focused on readying our clients to live in the community. We worked very hard and diligently at this mainly because we truly cared about their welfare and their success at living outside the facility where many had been their whole lives. After years of interaction day in and day out we knew them so well, and most staff were careful to plan for the clients with a very open mind recognizing people often rise and adapt well to new circumstances and surroundings. I admit there was a lot of apprehension but staff I knew did their best to ensure a smooth transition for the people we served into their new homes.

But here’s is the thing. What was the community doing to prepare for the arrival and integration of these folks? That worried me. I reiterated this all the time. I had worked with high risk people, dual diagnosed, and eventually we did hear stories where the police had to be called to a group home. They had no training as we currently hear when law enforcement is called to intervene during a mental health crisis. Now there are teams learning and preparing the best approach to such situations but for a time it seemed we had the planning and preparation all backwards and those we had served were being thrown under the bus.

As I said, there was a large population to be discharged and certainly most people did do well. But near closure time, a final dance was held just as often had been in days gone by. I was delighted to see some former clients at the dance who had been long discharged. The facility had been their home for most of their lives and so I knew this was their comfort zone. However as we chatted a comment shook me. They said they had tried to go to dances and other events in the community but they didn’t like them because they didn’t feel welcome. It was too hard for them to fit in. They told me that people looked at them strangely. They even sounded a bit afraid. Where they had so looked forward to living in the community, they were now certainly not as delighted as they once had been. Clearly for them it actually felt like they had been thrown under the bus.

Silos seem to be something I have been fighting my whole life. I guess we all do to some extent perhaps, some more concerning than others depending on the issues relevant to our lives. My dad, my son, my aunt all lived or do live with challenges and disabilities, as did those in my place of employment. People are constantly isolated and excluded for a plethora of reasons which all boil down to the fact that we are different from each other and that leads to fear.

Therefore, silos feel the same as do physical boundaries, always the place we are expected to remain. For better or for worse, they are comfortable, familiar. To begin with, we tend to normally stay culturally within our own people group mainly because of language. Then a host of reasons emerge convincing us to segregate and stay so. Yet, since the dawn of time wars have all been battled over gaining boundaries and territory.

Pause for a moment here and think about what the world might look like presently if this were not the case, if there were no boundaries or never had been. There would be no issues at our borders, no dangerous illegal crossings in a desperate attempt to find a better life, no war in Ukraine, no poverty, no sense of entitlement because of our birthplace. In Bible days there were even lines of distinction and inheritance over your birth order, the firstborn gaining the goods. OOOOh Human Race, what have we done to ourselves!

Moreover, silos create prejudices and isolation. Being immersed in the world of folks with challenges as I was all those years, the buzz was always how we must striving for inclusion….but I never really saw inclusion play out in real time, in real life. It was widely discussed, volumes written on the subject, and presented at endless conferences. It was the dream, the utopic goal, but still the human race struggles tremendously with little progress. I had accompanied former clients into the community frequently. I knew exactly what the people at the dance were talking about.

And now, dwelling in a cultural silo which houses seniors, the war continues but on this new front of ageism. Older adults are marginalized, segregated by our society, and often we ourselves simply accept this…and then complain that it is so.

However Jesus has cautioned us that we will face trials, that we must “armor” up, for there is victory ahead…. so forward we should go. Don’t be daunted by yet another battle. We have all the gear we need for winning! Show those around you that the wisdom and experience you have gained in a lifetime of living is worth sharing and giving away to the next generation. Be active in this regard. Just as you share with your grandchildren, extend it to others younger around you in your church and community. I expect if you asked, say, baby boomers, who led them to their faith, many would say it was their grandmothers. Their examples, their prayers and their stories were treasures! Give your faith stories away boundlessly as they did! Don’t allow yourself to be thrown under the bus-fight!

“As parents we hope for few things more than for our children to become people of faith”. Hebrews 11:1

“Yea, even when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not, until I have declared thy strength unto the next generation, thy might to every one that is to

come.” Psalm 71:18

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