Next time you’re at the grocery…
By: Esther Baldridge
I just finished shopping at a local business that I like to patronize, in part because they have been a willing employer of people with developmental disabilities for a very long time. They work with the employees through numerous issues and rarely give up on an employee. They clearly deserve my business.
A person who is served by the Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities was assisting me. I will call him “Peter.” He was enthusiastically telling me that he’s going to be a contestant in Marimor Idol and he would love for me to come see him perform. His co-worker asked, “When are you going to be done with the Marimor stuff?” Peter largely ignored her and continued to tell me who he hoped one of the judges would be at the event this year. The co-worker was still bothered by the discussion and asked me when Peter would be finished with that Marimor business. I responded, “When he dies.”
I proceeded to tell her that a student finishes with Marimor School when they graduate or turn 21; however, Marimor Industries, Inc. (MII) serves adults working in the community as long as they want the service. I explained that Marimor Idol is put on by MII and no kids are involved. She rolled her eyes and asked me, “What do you call him?” I looked at both of them and said, “A man.” With more eye rolling, she said something to the effect that this was hard to believe.
Peter continued to talk incessantly, and she continued to bicker with him. Neither were upset with the other. Finally, I said with a smile, “You two are bickering like brother and sister.” The co-worker was completely dumbfounded by my remark and said, “I don’t know what to think.” About that time, my business was finished and I thanked them and left.
As I left, I thought, my goodness, we have a lot of educating to do in this world. I didn’t even bother to try to explain the difference between the Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Marimor School and Marimor Industries, Inc. The education needed was far more basic than that. Peter had just told me in her presence that he was turning 50 on his next birthday, and we talked about how time is flying by. Why was his co-worker insisting that he is a mere child? He clearly isn’t. He has worked at this job since 1991, likely many more years than she has worked there. What was so inconceivable about comparing them to brother and sister? There might be a 10-year difference in their age. There was some difference in their intellectual ability. But why couldn’t Peter be seen as her brother?
When I first came to Lima in the early 1980s, the woman who Peter hopes will be a judge at Marimor Idol this year, gave me a picture that says, “To give dignity to man is above all things.” I have never forgotten that saying. Oh, that co-workers, neighbors, fellow parishioners and potential friends could understand this saying and live it out in their everyday lives.