Today I got to volunteer with a team, conducting mock interviews for young adults with disabilities, helping them to practice and hone the skills needed to land a job. I enjoyed the work. I really never mind talking and connecting with people; it’s an honor to glimpse somebody else’s precious life.
I also left feeling like I’d swallowed a heavy stone and it sat unmoving deep in my belly as TJ and I walked along the narrow streets of the North End on our way home. Life is not fair and I guess I could spend just about all my time on this earth sitting here and wondering why.
I interviewed a young man who is proud of having been “the only kid with autism in high school to play football.” His name is Matt (“spelled with two T’s,” he told me, “M-A-T-T”). He wants to earn enough money to help his family because they’re broke, he said. He wants to have a house of his own and doesn’t work so well in teams, he also said. His brothers are lazy and don’t contribute nearly as much as he’d like to. Matt has a beautiful heart. I wanted to tell Matt that he’d be okay. That he’d have that house and help his family. My guess is that he already does help his family, even if it’s not the kind of help that pays bills.
Like I said, I don’t know why it can feel like life plays favorites. I don’t know why so many of my friends have stayed in one simple, beautiful marriage while my first husband was an asshole (I’m sorry; that is rude and not entirely true. People are always people; they are never assholes. They can however, ACT like assholes. Which is all I’ll say about that). I do know that going through what I did changed my heart in ways that happiness alone never could. I feel pretty positive that Matt’s family (whom Matt clearly adores) wouldn’t trade him for anyone. I also know that everyone has something to give and when we do that, the world not only becomes richer for it, we do too.
Think about it. When you start to love someone even a little tiny bit, that love grows and multiplies and you find yourself in a situation where you can no longer love just a little. It takes over and your whole heart is colored with the stuff and it gets to the point where you cannot even go shopping for yourself anymore because all you want to do is buy every single thing that reminds you of them and wrap it up and not even wait until Christmas to be like SURPRISE I THINK YOU’RE AWESOME SO I GOT YOU THIS! It becomes harder to be selfish when you love someone and that’s never a bad thing.
Same with giving away your time. Your knowledge. Your help. Your money. You give it to someone else, but it always comes right back and changes you, too.
My point is that we could sit around bemoaning the fact that life is not fair (though we cannot see everything; people call me lucky from time to time now, and I often think nobody would’ve used that word for me five years ago… We just never know the depth of people’s stories, is the thing; we may think someone has it all, but they’re crying themselves to sleep, or their father is a cold hard man, or they’re living with a whole world of unrequited love within, etc; or conversely we may see a person and think they have nothing, when their heart is full of peace, or they have an assurance that God loves them, or they were raised by a mama who loved them well, so what’s more than all that?).
We could sit idly wondering WHY we aren’t all given what a lot of this world would call the exact same advantage, or we could give what we do have away, hoping to grow some more of that advantage for others along the way.
At the end of the interview, I had to adjudicate how well the participant conducted himself. I rated Matt’s eye contact (not a lot), his posture (I suppose we could all work on that, considering how hunched over our devices we like to be), his ability to speak clearly. Matt has things to work on, just like you and me. He just probably has some different things to work on than you and me. At the very end, I had to answer whether I’d hire him or not, based on our interview.
“I’d like to give him a shot,” I scrawled in blue ink at the bottom of the page.
Tonight, I’m praying that Matt meets someone who can really give him that shot.