An inherent imbalance exists in what I do for a living. I support adults who happen to have intellectual disabilities. Other lines of work are more straightforward. Painters paint, laborers lift, drivers drive. I support; I serve another. A painter is done when the wall is white. A laborer has materials to move. The driver has a destination in end and is heading right for it. All in order to move to the next job, next site, the next warehouse in the next city. I utilize many roles during a support; cook, driver, cleaner, cheerleader and it’s never the same order or preference. I may finish a support, but I’ll be on the phone reassuring or encouraging for an hour after I get home. Our work is not linear. We support; we serve another person.
We gain a living from another person who happens to have a disability. A disability, which may inherently cause vulnerability, pain or fear. Often the ones, the people, most vulnerable, most fearful, most in pain receive the most support. I gain a living because another person is living. Here is where the imbalance exists; the means of my livelihood come from your struggle.
Your complex needs designate pays my rent.
Your bites become my health benefits.
Your fists fill my fridge.
The pain another person potentially inherits on a daily basis indirectly brings me safety and security. We would be foolish and ignorant to believe otherwise. I am using another person as a means to my ends. This acknowledgement is vital to finding a way to tip the scales back to balanced. My awareness of the inherent imbalance in what I do for a living allows me to create intentionality. One cannot be intentional of what they are not aware of.
Through experience, time and effort, I may learn that a loud voice makes you feel scared, and through no fault of your own. I can intentionally speak softer and calmer. I may recognize that when I stand up quickly to answer the knock at the door, you feel I’m being dominant. I can intentionally rise slower and more relaxed, or let you answer your own door. I might realize that you cringe and shy away when I touch you with hands unseen. I can intentionally show you my hands and ask for a high five or ask for a hug. This knowledge can be remembered and passed on so that others may use this intention for gentleness and warmth. You may understand that I intentionally want you to feel safe so that you may understand what feeling safe is. You may learn that you have the capacity to be loved and valued, and you can be intentionally loving towards another, since you are aware of what it is.
Intentionality necessitates some forethought into our actions and motivations. When our actions and motivations become intentionally gentle and warm, we begin to address the inherent imbalance in our line of work. We start to treat those around us with the dignity and respect they deserve. We can begin to treat others not as a means to just our ends, but as a whole person. I reduce my perceptions of you being angry and aggressive, or having withdrawn behaviours and I begin to see you as a person who might be in pain, a person who may be fearful. I can see you as a complex person, with needs, wants and goals, a person who has pet peeves, preferences and interests. You are a person that is greater than the cumulative sums of your behaviours.
We cannot be intentional about what we are not aware of. We cannot practice the tenants of Gentle Teaching if we are not aware of what they are. I cannot be gentle with my words until I am aware that my words can be gentler. We can teach those about the pillars and tools of Gentle Teaching, but until we examine the intentionality behind using our tools, their capacity is diminished. If our toolbox contains only flat head screwdrivers, we can only look for flat head screws. When we become aware that there are many screw heads, we can intentionally choose which one will fit properly. When we are aware that our Gentle Teaching tools can be used intentionally, we have a greater ability to use them in all scenarios. It follows then, that when have a greater ability to intentionally serve another person, we slowly tip the scales back to becoming more balanced. We have the potential to remove this imbalance by intentionally treating those we serve with the dignity and respect they inherently deserve.