Their friendship should be based on caring, not care-taking. Creating a friendship is like having the freedom to be a member of the world of relationships.
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)