This I Believe

eric - owosso, Michigan
Entered on June 8, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
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What I learned from a summer job

People with physical and mental difficulties have been and are called a lot of names that would hurt them, if the actually knew what they meant. There are quite a few people that I know, have known, that would use these words or names as kind of a punch line or something. I’m not any better then any one else, because there were times that I would laugh along with them.

For me this changed one summer about seven years ago. I was assigned a summer job which, was at a developmental center for severely mentally and physically challenged students. At first I thought that this was just going to be another summer job, but I was totally wrong.

The first day started out pretty simple. It started out with introductions with the students, learning about their conditions, and some of the things that they could and could not do. After that it was time to get my hands dirty, so to speak. I was helping out by helping the students put their bags and belongs away, getting them ready for their activities and snack time, things like that. The real scary part was when I had to help with changing the diapers, and the whole cleaning up process. I have never changed diapers before this, even with having three baby nieces at the time, so this was a totally new experience for me. I felt really proud when I overcame this obstacle.

As time went on I started interacting more and more with the students and got really comfortable around them. I learned that they could a variety of things that everybody else could do, just with a little more help, we did things like going swimming, going to the dairy farm, and to the planetarium.

Looking back on it now I have to say that this was the best summer job that I have had. I learned about myself and the things that I could do, like being a caregiver. I developed a lot of respect for the people that choose this as a career and do it day in and day out.

I was sad to see the summer end. It was hard to leave the students after spending the last three months with them in my life pretty much everyday. I still find my self thinking about how they’re doing from time to time, and wondering if their conditions have gotten better or worse.

It was an experience that I know that will never leave me. Those students made an impact on my life, and I hope that I also made an impact on theirs.