We Hope See.
It’s pretty darn close to two years for me here at Grateful Bites.
Yes, I’m young. I do believe two years is fleeting in the many years that lie before me. However, these past two years have proven to be life changing.
I don’t know everything and two years ago I knew even less, especially when it came to the differently-abled population and what they face on a daily basis. I tentatively stepped into the pool of opportunity with hopes and dreams of being able to touch and enrich our differently-abled apprentices lives’ by teaching a passion, a craft, something tangible for them to say “I made that.” or “I did this all by myself.”.
Little did I know, they were all going to touch, enrich, and change my life in ways I couldn’t imagine.
I feel we often take for granted feeble and mundane daily tasks. I had a rude awakening of this when a busy non-stop holiday season forced my hand to double in size and landed me in a brace for tendonitis.
“How long will it take to get better?” I asked my doctor
“Well, that depends on how much you use it, it’s not going to get better if you continue to use your hand and not take care of it.” He told me.
“Ha! You do realize I’m a pastry chef, it’s two weeks until Christmas and it’s my dominant hand?”
Seriously though, isn’t there some miracle cure and I can be working in no time? Someone needs to get on that.
Sadly, no. However, it was the lesson I needed to learn at the time for many reasons.
Americans, as a culture, have this incredulous life ethic. Not just with work, but with life as well we often find ourselves rushing, running, blurring from one thing to the next. From the second our feet hit the floor until the time we lay down in bed, we’re going non-stop. Living at this pace, we take many things for granted. Now being forced to not use my dominant hand, in a job where I’m always hands-on, in a life that I am always hands on, I had one option – slow down.
Do something for me. Use your non-dominant hand to write your to-do list. Use your non-dominant hand to feed yourself – you cannot cheat and use your dominant hand for pushing food onto a food or spoon. Use your non-dominant hand to squeeze toothpaste onto a toothbrush and then brush your teeth, you can use your dominant hand to hold the brush while squeezing, but not for anything else.
Frustrating, isn’t it? It takes you twice the amount of time it would have taken you with your dominant hand.
Now imagine, living that way your entire life. Constantly feeling as though you’re struggling to complete things that you know others are completing faster than you. Our differently-abled population deals with this daily. Not only incredibly frustrated that they cannot do things that others can, but also compounding that frustration with not being able to wholly communicate what they’re frustrated about in the first place.
I live grateful each day that I can brush my own teeth, I can tie my own shoe laces, I can pipe on cakes and I can communicate my feelings.
I also live grateful each day that I can help our differently-abled do the same.
These past two years I have been witness to transformations most wouldn’t believe possible. With the freedom to tailor techniques and training to each individual.
I’ve watched M drop over 70lbs in learning about healthy eating habits and exercise.
I’ve watched K start to be able to communicate clearly and calmly execute a task while still retaining her love and happiness for life.
I’ve watched H come out of his shell and start talking to everyone without prompts, giving warm greetings and asking intelligent questions.
I’ve watched K go from a frustrated and jumpy young man to someone who works with incredible calm precision and is out in the café serving and charming customers.
Each apprentice has found their way into my heart, the love and admiration I have for each of them is indescribable. They all have found themselves born into a life with many challenges we can’t even begin to understand. They find themselves faced with difficulties in everyday mundane tasks we take for granted. Yet they are so hopeful, accepting, and just plain happy to be alive.
And then there’s ZAM. While I love each any every apprentice, ZAM has weaseled (his word, not mine) his way into a special place in my heart. I have two brothers by blood, both whom I love dearly. Then I have ZAM who’s adopted me (and my coworker/friend Marj) as what I like to call his “spirit sister”. I am Sister Bear One, and Marj is Sister Bear Two.
When I met ZAM, he was quiet and withdrawn, he wouldn’t even look me in the eye. Slowly but surely he started to open up and our friendship grew from there. ZAM has a lot of daily struggles – sometimes his hands don’t work the way he wants them too, or he gets mixed up in his noggin (also his words, not mine). It has taken him a long time to get where he is, but he has a never failing sense of love for life (and work – truly the only person who counts down his days in Paris before he can get back to Grateful Bites to work). One of his biggest struggles is knowing in his heart that he is different than everyone else, and he may never be able to truly be able to be independent without any assistance. But inclusion with neuro-typical individuals provides ZAM with a sense of belonging. Just because he’s differently-abled doesn’t mean he lacks the ability to engage in never ending brother-sister banter or a quick game of “I’m not touching you… I’m touching you.”. His favorite pass time could be a tie between two things – 1. Putting on his metaphoric ninja pants and scaring my socks off or 2. Calling me crazy. My heart swells when I get him into a fit of giggles, or after taking him to see a movie he tells me “Sister Bear, you will always be in my heart forever”. The best thing? His grinning, glowing face, when he finally got that Sister Bear Two and I got his writing tattooed to us because he’s stuck with Sister Bears FOREVER.
We Hope See, ZAM’s ever optimistic mantra. It’s his combination of we’ll wait and see, and I hope so. It embodies not only him but the life I hope to always live. How lovely would it be to slow down, be grateful for all things small or large, just let go and hope see?