Who are your heroes? How do you decide who gets on the list?
Defining my heroes was not something I thought much about. Then someone asked me who my heroes are. My first instinct was to consider celebrities – they must be a celebrity for a reason, right? This instinct is supported by Webster’s definitions a–c (see box below). I can come up with a vague list of people I admire.
a : a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability
b : an illustrious warrior
c : a person admired for achievements and noble qualities
d : one who shows great courage
However, when I stop and consider what a hero is, I end up with people who meet definition d: one who shows great courage. My list runs to people like Miss Laura Baker, the people we support and our staff members.
These are people who face daunting tasks every day with courage and passion.
We’re not encouraged to see “ordinary” people as heroes. Yet there are “ordinary” people who overcome barriers every day. When I hear their stories, I am inspired and my perspective changes. I feel hopeful that I can overcome the obstacles I see in my own life. Sometimes, I am reminded that what I consider to be obstacles are mere anthills that I can easily step over.
This year, we are featuring stories of ordinary people who persevere despite the obstacles they face. Meet Bobby and Justin, Jorie and Jack, Isabella and Mona, Scott and Glen – laurabaker.org/heroes. Read about Izzy, Karina and others – laurabaker.org/faces.
Here are people who live ordinary lives and who want simple things. They want to have a roof over their heads, friends with whom to have fun and other simple things. They have their own definition of “enough,” that is about simple enjoyment. They don’t measure themselves against their neighbors to determine if they’re successful. They can be content with what they have today, as long as their tomorrow is not threatened. They get joy from relationships, and from sharing. They aren’t terribly interested in making sure that others aren’t getting more than what society perceives they’re due. They recognize the value in other human beings.
These ordinary heroes don’t ask for much. In fact, they may tell you they don’t need much – or anything at all.
Every day, Laura Baker Services Association faces what appear to be intractable challenges to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to meet their dreams and goals. There is no simple answer for these intractable problems we tackle year in and year out: Housing. Services. Sustainable funding.
Paying our staff members living wages at a base of $15 an hour, would cost $1.5 million more. More than we have. Every year.
Instead of simple answers, there are good people (heroes!) and fledgling ideas, and lots and lots and lots and lots of hard work. There is consistent commitment and digging in and showing up, even when we feel overwhelmed.
And there is reaching out: Asking for what we need and recognizing the resources when they come to us.
And the resources do come.
For instance, at a desperate moment, two long-term direct support staff members returned to us, full of enthusiasm. They’re caring for clients and teaching fellow staff, and one now serves as a household director.
It takes radical collaboration to reach big solutions by taking small steps together.
It takes you, too.