At Penn-Mar we talk a lot about the power of transformation. Our tagline, “Transforming life into living,” speaks to our mission to do whatever it takes to help the people we support live interesting, meaningful, self-directed lives.
And while it all sounds noble and inspirational, the process of transforming lives can at times be very messy. It’s not linear.
Think about your own life. All of us have made mistakes along the way, working off pre-suppositions that were not accurate, ignoring opportunities, playing it safe. Sometimes the job of our dreams is anything but. But the process of growing and understanding can and should eventually lead us to the right path.
There is no perfect template for making a wonderful life. It’s just hard work, for you and me and even more so for people with disabilities.
For too long the folks we support have found themselves on the inferior side of a relationship. With the best of intentions, they are told to ask for what they want. But in the end, they are told by others what would be best for them.
Fortunately, that dynamic is changing. Today, instead of simply taking care of people, we are helping them to learn how to describe their dreams and ultimately live them.
If you follow the many stories we post on our website, you have to be moved by the courage of people with disabilities to transform and live their own lives.
A common refrain among the folks who secure a job in the community is, “I never thought I could do something like that!” That sentiment could also apply to mowing the lawn, or traveling by plane to a family wedding, winning a blue ribbon in a prestigious horse show event, or launching a mobile DJ business fueled by a passion for music and the support of Penn-Mar’s new Self-Employment Program.
Many had no idea about the path they wanted to pursue. But with our Exploration & Discovery process, we were able to walk them through different scenarios that triggered an emotion, presented options, or literally made a dream come true.
Working with our families, we are striving to be students rather than critics. It’s really all about trust. We need to listen to their hopes and dreams for their loved ones. But we also need to help expose them to the world of possibilities that are out there and help them visualize different outcomes. We also need to accept responsibility when we have not done a very good job in partnering with our families and press forward to always do better.
Often families feel their loved one is not ready for a new job. I wasn’t ready for my first job either but it was important to just go and do it. This is where the dignity of risk comes in. We are not trying to set people up for failure; rather, we are showing them how not to be afraid of failure, and how it help us all to learn and grow.
When we talk about truly transforming a person’s life, it demands taking a thoughtful, intelligent approach to understanding their heart, soul and mind in order to find what it is that makes them happy.
Peer groups are also catalysts for transformation. When people share their excitement about their job in the community, talk about who they met at a party, a vacation they enjoyed, or the fun they had during the day, they are influencing those around them who may be motivated to be and do more.
We continually encourage and celebrate the positive victories of the people we support. But we’ll know that a real transformation has taken place when we’re no longer surprised by their achievement because that’s what a meaningful life is all about.