One of the reasons I enjoy working with Helping Hands Respite Care is because our director, John Stauffer is a “see the need and try to meet it” kind of man. He knows the value of saying yes. He has this interesting combination of a great heart of compassion and the American Entrepreneurial Spirit. As a director, I see John lead with his heart much of the time, though he is sometimes painfully aware of the pennies and the “bottom line”. (Just ask him sometime about our Adult Day Service coffee pot situation). He recently spoke about the difference between For Profit and Not For Profit Care Agencies. He said, “the For Profit Agency cares for people in order to make money, while we, the Not For Profit Agency must make money so that we can care for people. I love the orientation of this observation. We are a Person Centered agency who strives to earn money so that we can provide respite for families who care for a loved one with a disability.
Discovering the Value of Saying Yes
This was recently illustrated in a way that has made a deep impression on me. At one of our “Walk Beyond the Barriers” information sessions this past winter, we hosted a couple who live more than an hour from East Lansing. They come to East Lansing at least once a week to deliver enough home cooked meals to keep their son nourished for a week. Their son, who I will call Jim, lives independently near campus, but he doesn’t cook. They had not had a vacation in years and were desperately trying to find an agency who could stop by Jim’s apartment and check on him for a few minutes while they were out of state. Though this is not the typical service we provide, leading with his heart, John said, “Yes, I think we can do that for you.”
Let me tell you about our new friend, I will call him Jim. Jim works on campus about 30 hours a week. He walks to his job, does his work and goes home to his apartment. His social interaction is primarily his work. He lives alone. Jim loves MSU sports; actually, he loves all sports. He has season tickets to Spartan Basketball, loves to play golf, and shoot baskets. He keeps his apartment immaculate. He is tall, lean and very athletic for a 42 year old man. He is a very kind and gentle man, who when you meet him, you feel like you want to spend as much time as possible with him. The reason? He listens like he really cares. He is very quick to smile and his eyes express warmth and acceptance. Who wouldn’t want to spend time with someone like Jim? The only challenge in spending time with this wonderful man is his disability. Jim has Cerebral Palsy. It has robbed him of the ability to speak clearly. This makes being with people very difficult. The result is isolation. Isolation means never feeling comfortable going to the store, restaurant or the bank without his parent. More than this, his disability has robbed his community of meeting and interacting with a very interesting and engaging man.
Recently, Jim and his mother and I met to talk about ways that Helping Hands Respite Care could help Jim expand his world. We discussed Jim’s invitation for us to come alongside him and teach him some of the daily activities that he has never ventured to learn. We are going to journey with Jim. We will explore the amazing (often extremely frustrating) world of the computer. We will be learning about shopping, going to the bank and any other activity Jim wants to do. Wow, what a joy this will be for Jim and our care provider.
Once again, I see the wisdom of meeting needs as the first priority of our Not For Profit Agency over all other possible first priorities. Thanks John for leading with your heart. The wonderful gift this gives, is the opportunity to serve an amazing man like Jim. This is why we’re here; and this is what we do.