Saturday morning, in the midst of breakfast on a silent retreat, our lovable, gregarious, differently-abled dishwasher, Myron, walked into the dining room and shouted, “Good morning! Merry Christmas!” to our guests. The men on silent retreat, rather than being upset or irritated by the intrusion into their silence, grinned and smiled warmly at Myron.
Myron worked here for a number of years before Covid, and returned this fall after a Covid hiatus to help us when we have larger groups. That was a wonderful reunion, as we missed having Myron here as much as Myron missed being here. Most of our guests also welcome and accept Myron, even though he is different and sometimes has to be reminded about appropriate language.
Several of the men later commented to Kim and Kari, our weekend host, that they were pleasantly surprised to see that we included Myron on our team. Others said they had never been to a retreat center that had a differently-abled employee. Now its possible, maybe even likely, that other retreat centers are just as inclusive in hiring as we are but that their employees are just not as out-going as our Myron.
But Myron being part of our team is not about anyone’s admiration and acceptance, nor is it about anyone else’s hiring practices. Myron is here because of who we are and how we want to be. Our mission statement says we are “a community welcoming all seeking healing, hope and transformation through deeper connection with God, Self, Others, and Creation.” Our core values include hospitality (creating safe and welcoming environments where the gifts of all are cherished) and compassion (being present to all people with an open and loving heart). That mission is not limited to our guests.
Perhaps most importantly, it isn’t even about Myron’s abilities or limitations. In reality, we are all differently-abled. Sometimes our limitations are a consequence of age or disease, other times they are limitations we were born with. Our limitations do not make us less important or less worthy, though, because it is not the limitations we choose to focus on. It is the different gifts each one brings, the variety of gifts each person cheerfully contributes to our community.
It is also about belonging. Everyone needs a place to belong, a community where their gifts are not only welcomed, but cherished. Everyone needs to know they are missed when they are away and that they will be welcomed when they return.
For all the differently-abled people in our world, for the gifts they bring and for the lessons they teach us, we say Deo Gratias!
Happy to hear that Myron is back with us.
Amen! Wow I love this! Beautifully written – thanks for sharing!