What do we call a worker who shows up reliably to do a job; that they aren’t paid for, and whose merit is conditioned on their developmental, and/or mental health differences? In a conversation with a member of our board at Partners Creating Community, the non-profit which Heart stone is a part I antagonistically said, “I call them people.” I knew that he didn’t need my sass, but it’s hard for me to resist.
In different times, and places, I’ve heard many different names used to describe an unpaid worker; a person with a disability, who aims to find a meaningful way to contribute to their community; villagers, companions, clients, members …etc.
I use the term “Contributors,” for people, in the hopes of speaking directly to the motivation of the archetypical human being. Each of us hopes to balance a desire for personal impact, and the market-based compensation that subsequently values our skills, and gifts. Perhaps, we are mostly here to give of ourselves, and to make a difference.
The lion’s share of people with disabilities aren’t going to have a competitive edge in their field, nor will they be guaranteed the same proportion of opportunities afforded to “normative” people; to learn, fail, and grow, and ultimately develop as human beings.
Perhaps it’s too obvious, but to be noticed, to have a voice and be heard, to have a sense of belonging, there must be opportunities available to every human being to contribute to society, especially those with a disability.
A person with autism, down syndrome, or another developmental difference and/or mental health challenge, will never successfully compete in this market without an opportunity to be seen in their striving to offer their gifts to the world.
It’s a tricky spot, where people have to exist in a competitive marketplace; be unpaid, in order to develop as a human being. We have to take a leap of faith in the human being, vulnerable in a cut-throat world, looking for a way to contribute their gifts, and find their unique purpose on the planet:
Each one of us has a desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves, and to leave behind something worth remembering.
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