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When the Elevator Door Opens…

Elevator rides can be awkward. You press the button and you wait for the door to open. You have no clue what you may be walking into and for how long you will be in a tight space with random people. Let’s just say it, this is even more uncomfortable during a pandemic when distancing yourself from others is recommended. The elevator must not bother some people because there are a few who will get on the elevator and continue whatever conversation they were having either in person or on the phone (and sometimes you hear more than you even need to hear). Then, there are people like me. Even though I am a high-volume talker in most situations, I just find myself staring at shoes, my phone, or the numbers going up or down. Finally, there are also those people who will start a conversation with anyone no matter how long you are on the ride. These people tend to make it so much less awkward. I like these people.

One day, a quick comment from a young man in the elevator really got me thinking. Seriously, he was only on the elevator for maybe two floors, but as he squeezed on with the other five or so people who were there, he jokingly said, “Man, why do I have to be so big?” He asked this as if it was a struggle to fit on the elevator. I kind of chuckled along with the guy, and since I could tell that he was joking, I replied “because your job requires you to be a big person. We are all made to do something well.” Whoa! Did that comment just come out of my mouth, especially in an elevator with other people? As I said, this young man had to be joking, but I also feel like a lot of times there is some truth in a joke. As I finished my elevator ride, I started thinking about what he said and how I replied. I started relating it to my intern who I was coaching at the time. I started thinking about many of the clients I have worked with over the years. I started thinking about people in general. I started thinking about how little credit we give ourselves and in turn how little credit we give to other people to do a job well.

We are all made to do something well. Let me repeat that: we are ALL made to do something well. I have worked with clients at the STAR Center who have had low vision. I worked with clients who have Autism. I have worked with clients who have had Cerebral Palsy. I have worked with clients who have intellectual disability. And you know what? Despite a few limitations, they all have special talents, abilities, or physical features that make them marketable for employment. Just in the past six years as a job coach, I have been able to train over two dozen young adults who were or are trying to figure out what jobs they would be good at doing. Was this easy? Nope. Most of the time, it took several months, if not the whole school year, to do so. And to be completely honest, some of these young adults still need to be convinced that they have talents that can be put to use in a career. Think about yourself and those around you. How many of us find our dream job the first time we are hired to do something?

Finding your purpose in life through a career is not just a problem for those with disabilities (although there are oftentimes extra challenges). What if instead of focusing on the things we think are wrong with us, we started focusing on the things that make us right for a job? What if we started helping each other realize what special abilities we have to get a job done? I am sure the young man in the elevator didn’t give another thought to what he said. I hope he really was joking because I know when those doors opened he went out and he made a difference in a patient’s day. When the doors open for you, are you going to make excuses for the way that you are or are you going to go out and make a difference?

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