Embrace the Mess, Every Step of the Way


Both internally at Laura Baker Services Association (LBSA), and in the world at large. At LBSA, our biggest challenge continues to be finding enough staff members to support our services. We’re joining with other Northfield organizations to appeal to the broader community to help. (Read the Care Can’t Wait letter on the Advocacy section of our website.) The inability to find staff members limits the number of people we support and continues to present an existential crisis for the organization.

At LBSA, our work is dominated by systems and processes that ensure that no matter who is providing support, there’s guidance for how and what to do. That’s good news and bad news. It’s good news because it means when things get messy, we have systems and processes to fall back on. It’s bad news because sometimes that can stifle creativity and innovation. The idea is to eliminate mistakes.


Small mistakes are learning opportunities, and we won’t eliminate them, regardless of the systems in place. As a society, we need to accept that being human means we won’t be perfect. When we embrace the mess of humanity, we experience the full range of human emotion. We also can give the gift of grace and ease the anxiety that accompanies the need to be perfect. Working with people, you quickly learn that setting perfection as a goal results in failure.

With the people we support, we create measurable goals and objectives for each person, which includes the amount of assistance or independence a person needs to carry out that goal or objective. We used to strive for people to be 100% independent in carrying out these goals. In essence, we were trying to “cure” people’s disabilities. There’s a difference between teaching people to do what they want (meet their dreams and goals) and expecting them to do so without support.

So, it’s messy. We must be able to navigate our own values, dreams, desires, needs and wants. We must be able to listen and understand others’ perspectives, values, interests, needs and wants. In supporting others, sometimes we must set aside our own interests and values to support the person to meet THEIR dreams and goals. Sometimes we must help the people in a client’s life listen to the person’s needs, wants, dreams and desires. THAT can get really messy. It’s the messiness of everyday life.

Embracing the mess does NOT mean giving up on the systems. They are bumpers for negotiation. So are our mission, vision and values. We must be able to compromise, and sometimes we run into situations that we, or the person, have to say “no” to.


COVID-19, and all that accompanies it, has increased the messiness – adding another layer of complication to situations and services that were already plenty messy. We’re figuring it out and we’re embracing the notion that, despite our best efforts to tame the mess, we must learn to embrace what is and figure out how we continue to move forward, despite the mess.

We’re doing just that:

  • We’ve launched a new service, Family Navigation Services, that assists families and people with disabilities to access services and supports that make their lives more manageable.
  • We’re in the process of launching Housing Stabilization Services, a new service that supports people with disabilities to remain in their community housing. We’ll be assisting people to work with landlords, access services and supports, and get along with their neighbors.
  • Our next venture will be Behavioral Support Services, assisting people and families to change and manage behaviors that may create barriers to successful community living.

We’re grateful for the support we receive from the community: those of you who have or are contributing to our Beacon of Hope Fundraising Campaign, those of you who advocate with community members and legislators to understand and adequately fund our services, and those of you who join us as staff members or encourage others to do so.

Please join us in embracing the mess. Be an advocate, donate to one of our campaigns, join us as a staff member and encourage others to do the same. It’s messy, and it’s rewarding.