By: Waverly Ann Harris
1) “What We Are Made Of”
2) “Keep Calm and Go with the Flow”
3) “You Are All Heroes to Me”
In 2018, ten of the Friends wrote a play called, “What We Are Made Of” and performed it live as a traveling theatre troupe called Tandem Troupe. In this short play, they highlighted the true essence of who we are on the inside, particularly under pressure. In a humorous and lighthearted way, they exposed the tension between dark and light that exists when we are faced with potentially losing something that we consider valuable. In their story, one character sabotages another to steal a title and crown, a second character defends the protagonist to get the crown back into the right hands, and the protagonist ends the play by bringing the whole group together, sharing the title and winnings with everyone. Most of the stories that the Friends write are reflective of the way they see the world. They don’t see winners and losers. They enjoy winning, and they want all of their friends to win also.
During this time of trial, we have all experienced the stress of being under pressure, and as a result have faced our best and worst selves. We have also witnessed what others are made of – the ones who are willing to take from others to win at all costs, the ones who defend the rights and justice for others, and those who build bridges and bring people together. May we all look at the world through the eyes of the Friends and choose to be the ones who build bridges and bring people together through laughter and empathy, particularly in these serious times.
With her peace fingers in the air, and a big smile on her face, one of the Friends famously said, “Keep calm and go with the flow.” At Friends Life Community, we preach and practice going with the flow on a daily basis. Preaching it is easy. Practicing it is more challenging and is often not intentional. Sometimes things happen, no matter how hard you try to control the environment, and you have no choice but to go with the flow.
During this time of uncertainty, economic distress, and health concerns, there are many factors that are out of our control. Government officials and executives are making major decisions that impact our daily lives. Behaviors and patterns of others determine our access to needs and wants. Transportation is limited, and we lack access to our favorite places. Unemployment is high. Social distancing is causing many to feel isolated and to experience barriers between the people and things we enjoy. Most of us are now experiencing what many individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have experienced their whole lives.
The Friends teach us daily about living life to the fullest and being in the present moment. They also fill our lives with laughter and joy. They remind us not to take life or ourselves too seriously, and they help ground us in what is truly important. They teach us to stay calm in moments that test our patience and make going with the flow much more fun.
During a Facetime conversation with one of the Friends, she started talking about the staff at Friends Life saying, “You are all heroes to me.” She explained how much she missed seeing everyone, and that she had been lonely living in her condo by herself––even though she was not lonely enough to go stay with her parents. She spoke about her longing to return to Friends Life, to be with the people she cares about and who care about her.
The Friends are great role models. They call heroes like they see them. To the Friends, heroes are the ones who are often the first to show up and the last to leave, being the person who really cares. Heroes have compassion for others in everyday life. They don’t require a crisis to respond, but you can trust undoubtedly that they will be there when one occurs.
They are the everyday people, doing their everyday jobs so that others have what they need, have what they want, and have some sense of belonging in a world that is in turmoil. Nurses, doctors, grocery store cashiers and stockers, janitorial employees, shoppers, restaurant employees, factory employees, those delivering food through food banks, volunteers picking up debris from tornadoes, therapists and others providing human services, daycare workers, and many, many others are all showing up to be someone who cares.
The image of a hero is often one that is considered to be unattainable by the common person, doing their regular job or living their everyday routine. Most of the staff at Friends Life Community would probably say that they love their jobs and do what they do every day because it’s what they are good at. It’s a part of who they are, naturally. However, these last few weeks, as the world has been turned upside down, and we are all responding to a global crisis, the image of a hero is being redefined. The rest of the world is beginning to see the definition of who a true hero is—one that has always been obvious to the Friends.