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For people with disabilities, words matter. One that constantly appears and holds significant importance is “community." We are told that our residents’ lives are not meaningful unless they access the community. What do we mean, though, by community?
All too often, we are told that community is everything outside of Misericordia. Why isn’t Misericordia considered the community? Our residents lead independent, stimulating, and full lives on our campus. They have the opportunity to participate in entertaining and challenging daily activities. They are pushed to reach their full potential professionally, no matter the severity of their disability. And, most importantly, they make lifelong friends with whom they experience all the joy and sadness of a meaningful life. If that’s not community, what is?
This is not to say that our residents are sheltered at Misericordia. Every individual regularly leaves campus for shopping, meals, and entertainment. We strive for competitive employment at integrated occupations and have numerous individuals of all abilities employed with Loyola University, Panera Bread, Target, the White Sox, and many other companies and organizations. This is important and we proud that every resident has these opportunities. But we are also proud of the community we have built here at Misericordia.
Words matter. When we talk about going into the community or gaining community employment, it implies that what we have at Misericordia is not community. We know that this is not the case- spend a day with anyone living here and you would see the richness and vibrancy of our community. So when our residents leave campus for an outing they are not going to the “community”; they are going to the mall or a restaurant or a baseball game. When they go to Loyola to work they are not going to their “community job”; they are simply going to work, just like anyone else. We do not need to leave campus to join the community - WE ARE THE COMMUNITY.