The importance of relationships, hospitality, and most importantly, a changed heart.
Loyalty is one of the greatest gifts in life we can give to each other. It is a principle of unfailing love.
I’ve had many discussions with advocates about the importance of loyalty in relationships. When trying to resolve problems, we can forget that your constant presence in a person's life is often the best gift you can offer them. Your effort of being there often counts more than producing outcomes. This principle helps us to slow down and really understand the person.
In spite of our most sincere efforts, it's easy to be distracted by the interests of human service agencies, the partner’s family, or possibly the DFO program itself. It’s also easy to be distracted by the needs of people around you, such as another person in need of friendship asking for your attention, or people you know wanting you to volunteer for good causes. Given to fickleness, we all can be easily swayed by other, sometimes more compelling opportunities when the going gets tough. Your partner will depend on your fidelity to them.
One advocate from the Citizen Advocacy organization in Australia says it best, “I love her like a sister and will do everything I can in my power to make it right for her.” When your partner is the focal point of your actions and decisions – seeing the world from their perspective – you will be able to achieve incredible things.
Even as adults, people with disabilities can be very dependent on human services and their families. The people your partner depends on will develop their own opinions on what’s best for your partner, or already have them. Sometimes these perspectives can be very helpful, and other times they may have views that miss important details of your partner’s needs and desires.
As an advocate who is independent, you have an opportunity to align yourself with your partner. You can focus on their primary interests with a fresh perspective, and without the common distractions many professional service workers have. You will understand situations from the perspective of your partner and shape these situations for their benefit.
“Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. Go deep rather than wide. Go time, not just money.” – Andy Stanley
Many people with disabilities often have people come in and out of their lives and have felt the pain of short-lived relationships and outright rejection. Many people with disabilities have experienced what has been called a “relationship circus” in which “helping” people appear in their lives and then, just as quickly, disappear.
People with disabilities need sustainable communities and relationships. Some people may need a certain amount of help for specific or shorter periods of time; but most people with disabilities need relationships and communities that will last and endure. This may be the case even when such a person needs less and less help, but still needs friendship. As relationships grow and mature, many advocates find themselves engaged happily in long-term, enduring relationships, which meet important needs for both the partner and the advocate.
(The above is an adaptation from A.J. Hildebrand's writings on Citizen Advocacy Principles)
Watch as Jerry Robinson shares his story of how he got out of Willowbrook State School. Andrew Oliver then shares about disability, the church, and Do For One.
“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
What’s the secret to living a long and healthy life? There’s a good chance it’s your social life. In a recent TED talk, Susan Pinker points out research held on tens of thousands of middle-aged people’s lifestyles to address the question, “What reduces your chances of dying the most?” This research was directed by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University.
The summary of the data was a top 10 list which included things like clean air, exercise, quit smoking, etc. Number 1 on that list was something called “social integration.” This means how much you interact with people throughout your day; from your family, friends to your neighbors or the baristas at your regular coffee shop. A close second on the list is your intimate relationships.
This is not only crucial for a long and healthy life, but also a more vibrant one. People in communities share common interests, resources, and connections. Networks richly assist its members, such as hearing new music, getting recommendations for an excellent doctor, lending books, and sharing ideas, for example.
As mentioned in the Circles of Support post, people with disabilities have relatively few relationships in their lives that are not paid to be there. In most cases, Human Service professionals far outweigh their other relationships. Community Circles understand that people with developmental disabilities simply do not have opportunity to connect and expand their network of support. Therefore, Community Circles are not insular. To the contrary, they exist to multiply connections and move outward, motivated by social integration and fostering close relationships.
For many, life is full of those moments that many of us would say are divinely orchestrated, others might say serendipitous. Being in the right place at the right time, where new friendships or opportunities are offered to us. When people’s knowledge and experiences are diverse, new ideas and possibilities become available to us. Community Circles pave the way for those surprising and fun moments to occur.
The purpose of the below is to dialogue with those who are already involved in a Community. If you have interest in visiting us and learning more click here
As mentioned before, Community Circle participants are made up of Advocates, Partners, family, friends, and likeminded people.
- Recruitment starts with an Advocate/Partner relationship and ensures that a person with developmental disabilities in is at the center of decision-making in the Community. The nature of this relationship; the skills, gifts, and personality will shape the Community as it grows.
- The third person that you need is a Host. This person may be someone the Advocate or Partner already knows and trusts. A Host is someone:
- with the gift of hospitality
- will open their home and inspire others to do the same
- a person who has an outstanding reputation and is influential in their community
- has a wide network of likeminded family or friends
You can then begin hosting simple gatherings such as potluck and game nights in order to start building relationships. Guests are invited by the Partner, Advocate, and Host in efforts of growing the number of participants in the Community Circle. Circles can grow up to 15 people or more.
In no particular order, these participants might include some or all of the following:
- The Partner’s Intimate Relationships
- The Advocate and Host’s most trusted relationships that are interested in the inclusion of people with disabilities
- Do for One staff assists in the recruitment of people with developmental disabilities in need of companionship or advocacy
- Support staff to Partners, this will at times be necessary for some with more significant support needs
- At times it might be necessary to reach outside your normal circles in efforts of building momentum and adding to greater diversity in your Circle. Places like your home church, mercy and justice minded organizations that help recruit volunteers, are examples that can help with this
Vetting and Requirements
- Our Info Sessions is the starting point and we ask all participants to attend.
- We ask all serious Community Circle participants to fill out a “Community Friend Profile” and background check. This helps us discern everyone’s involvement.
- In addition to potluck and game nights, gatherings to reflect, pray, and friendly visits to many of their friends with disabilities can take place for enriching their collective understanding of Do for One’s mission.
- In the next post, I will go into detail on how to discover your Communities’ assets and unique identity.
"The reason there will be no change is because the people who stand to lose from change have all the power. And the people who stand to gain from change have none of the power." - Machiavelli
Many of you are familiar with our community gatherings. Our hope at these gatherings is to heal divisions between class and factions of our city and to create opportunity for people of diverse identities to meet, relate, and experience moments of life together that will be remembered.
In a series of posts, I'd like to start introducing a concept that I think will help us realize the potential within our existing community gatherings and to deepen our existing Advocate/Partner relationships.
In the above quote, Machiavelli helps us to see why people and families affected disability feel isolated and stuck. People with disabilities usually only have a few people in their lives they can call on when they need help. In most cases, these people are professionals that are paid to be there. There are many reasons for this, including the person’s lack of opportunity for work, access to social or religious groups, or connections with people who share their interests. See our post on Circles of Support.
There is a chasm between two basic groups of people: those who are walking on "thick ice" and those who are walking on "thin ice." Initiating or joining a Community Circle is a great first step for you to make social change by being social.
What Are Community Circles?
Community Circles are self-designed collectives made up of Do For One participants. They are organized – based on location, or similar interests, for example – by Advocates, Partners, family, friends, and likeminded people. They focus their time, talents, and resources on connecting vulnerable persons with people who are ready, willing, and able to befriend and support them.
Community Circles are started by thoughtfully recruiting and assembling a balanced guest list of people with and without disabilities, this provides a safe, comfortable environment for networks to form and strengthen. Movie and game nights, karaoke nights, picnics, planning meetings, and special occasions such as birthday or graduation parties are some of their events. Community Circles determine the content, direction, and social character of their efforts, which is essential for their sustainability and efficacy. Community Circles exist within neighborhoods and are encouraged to in influence their community by inclusion.
Interested in visiting one? CLICK HERE to see where gatherings are held near you.
Click here for part two on how a Community is started.