A church I know of makes an effort to include adults with disabilities. One man in the group, Jeff, a very engaging and talkative man, has an incredible ability to get people to allow him to work alongside of them in various church activities (don’t you wish there were more people like that!). Anyway, one week he was acting as a greeter; someone who may be the first point of contact of community members with the church. Several church members actually complained/wondered out loud about whether he would be a good greeter. You see, his dress can be a bit unkempt, and after years of living in a group home for people with intellectual disabilities his teeth are missing, miscolored, etc. He also has an intellectual disability so believe it or not…he is too friendly! That is evidenced in the way he chats briefly with people as they enter. He doesn’t understand that the enviornment’s social demands require that he just say “Hello” and hand over the bulletin. As a result, those who enter are unsure of how to respond. But one of the pastors of the church told me that he read the Social Ramps article. He commented that “This is where the church needs to go!”
Well the latest is that Jeff is now a greeter at the church. Additionally, the pastor introduced him from the pulpit and told of how delighted he was that he is now a greeter (preparation/education/coaching). This photo shows Jeff pointing to his official greeter badge.
Now most of us would not take particular delight in being a greeter. But consider how Jeff sees this opportunity. He is a man who has been devalued by society because of his intellectual disability. He lives his life largely segregated from the community in a group home setting, only venturing out to participate in his day program. But now, he is able to use his friendliness and talkativeness to welcome people to the one place in the community where he himself has been welcomed, integrated and trusted. The enviornment has changed to accept him. He will have to work a bit on cutting down on his greeting conversation, but that is part of what he needs to do to make it easier for the social environment to continue to do the right thing.