17 Aug Mission Minute: Connections of Hope
Kindness and Consideration Are the Only Skills Necessary
By Lauren Palmer
I didn’t know much about my friend and neighbor Amanda Boyd’s job, but I knew she worked with individuals who have special needs. I also knew she was extremely passionate about it. So when Amanda invited me to a community engagement event at New Hope a few years ago, I gladly accepted.
I’m ashamed to admit I have not spent much time interacting with people who have special needs, and that I have sometimes felt like I didn’t know quite what to say or how to engage with someone whose abilities and needs might not immediately be clear to me. But watching Amanda chatting with clients in her warm and patient manner, I quickly learned that kindness and consideration are the only skills necessary. My self-consciousness faded the more time I spent getting to know each dynamic individual, and the more I let myself open up to the experience of forging new connections with New Hope’s amazing clients.
As I toured New Hope’s Day Services facility and met clients doing art therapy and playing games or reading newspapers around tables, I was struck by the environment created at New Hope — one of dignity and respect that allowed clients to feel at ease and have a sense of purpose. It occurred to me what a stark contrast this must be to the rest of the world, and I realized maybe for the first time what it would be like to move through the day in settings so often not set up for your needs. What a defeating and dehumanizing experience it would be to not be able to enter a building or use a restroom or partake in an activity because your abilities were not considered, which sends the message that your presence is not a priority. What it would be like for people to stare as you do perfectly regular activities like dining in a restaurant or going grocery shopping, when all people have to do it say hello or offer kind assistance. Recognizing the discrimination these individuals have no doubt experienced as a result of other people’s ignorance or cruelty, I was filled with awe and admiration for the bravery and persistence of every individual I met, each one just a person trying to make the most of life like everyone else.
Individuals with special needs have so many gifts and talents to offer our world, and they deserve access to all the opportunities and experiences that able-bodied people take for granted. New Hope creates a safe and welcoming space that doesn’t exist in most places, and it offers critical support for families caring for their loved one with special needs. I left that community engagement lunch with a new appreciation for what New Hope provides Indianapolis, and a new interest in finding ways to use my time, talent and charitable giving dollars to support New Hope’s mission.
That lunch at New Hope has turned into years of staying connected. I have served in New Hope’s young professional group, brainstorming innovative ideas for New Hope to consider, and the New Hope Marketing Committee, using my professional insight to help New Hope make strategy decisions. I’ve taken my daughter to play Bingo with New Hope clients and organized a group service project with my colleagues. I’ve supported New Hope annually on Giving Tuesday and for other fundraising initiatives. And I have gained a community that has come to mean a great deal to me. New Hope contributes so much to our community and to the wonderful people and families it serves, and serving New Hope in return is the least I can do. And as most volunteer work goes, I’ve gotten more out of it than I have given.