Their names are Chris, Nick, Tim and Dan and Ron. They come to Church every Sunday. Usually Nick and Chris hold the doors open for everyone arriving and say hello. Chris is also an alter server and participates in the mass very enthusiastically. Nick also helps out by helping me do the collection. Not to leave Tim out, at the end of the mass he collects the donation basket and brings it to the priest. Ron usually helps by putting out the candles and and getting things reset for the next mass. Nick and Chris at the end of the mass again very enthusiastically hand out the church bulletins telling everyone they hand it to that they will see them again next Sunday. And as I look over at Dan during the mass he tries his best to repeat some of the prayers and songs that he can remember.
Chris, Nick, Tim, Dan and Ron are all handicapped to varying degrees. Each of them have their own limitations. But what is so great is that they really are apart of and are involved in our church. Our church is a small one compared to most of the others in the area. But what I like about it is that its small enough that you get to know a lot of the people and interact with them. Everyone seems to sing and and get into the music of the service which I myself enjoy.
Chris, Nick, Tim, Dan and Ron all live in a group home not to far away. They have a several people that are always with them to assist them and drive them to their activities. I believe Chris, Nick and maybe Tim also have a job during the week at a place called Opportunity Enterprises where their skills are used at what ever ability they have to produce products. It gives them income, provides them with a meal and gives them a sense of purpose to I believe.
Their care takers take them out sometimes to restaurants and they go on trips to summer camp, Disneyland and different events. All in all they have a pretty full life I think and they regularly interact with the community in a pretty positive light.
It wasn’t that long ago that their life would have been a lot different. It was late 1960’s and I would make a weekly trip with my mother to visit my dad at a state hospital. At the time he had MS and was put into a state institution that was an hour and a half away from our home. It was hard to go there and see the way they treated people. People like Nick, or Tim or Dan would have been strapped to a wheel chair and put into the hallway where after years of neglect they would sit there just starring out maybe rocking back and forth. They would have been in a hospital gown and the foul stench from their catheter being broken would be in the air as you walked past them. Left over food from their breakfast would have been stuck to their face or hands. Their nails may not have been clipped in ages and food was packed under their nails. Then every few minutes someone or several people would be moaning loudly like an animal in a trap. This went on all day every day. The majority of these people didn’t have visitors. If any of them still had their wits about them to any degree walking by them you were afraid and didn’t want to interact with them.
The memories still haunt me and I have to wonder what happened to all those people. I’m glad things have improved for people like Chris, Nick, Tim, Dan and Ron but with all the government cut backs it wouldn’t surprise me if they went back to warehousing people again to cut costs. I hope not.