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  • Posted on April 22, 2013 at 10:00 AM

I dislike the word. Staff. It’s impersonal. It’s almost derogatory. Staff. In my mind, I hear it as staph, like it’s a disease. Often it seems all too much like a disease. Staff is a bureaucratic word. When the bureaucracy abdicates responsibility, it says staff. More accurately, the abdication of responsibility is the disease. Or maybe it’s a symptom.

The people who make up staff can be wonderful, beneficial influences. They can cut through red tape. They can actually, genuinely, and wholeheartedly care about what they do and who they do it for. They can understand. They can empathize. They can accomplish amazing, life-changing things.

They can also be oblivious and ambivalent towards the well-being of those they care for. They can be reckless and dangerous. They can rigid and uncompromising, following policy and procedure at the expense of those they care for. They can be immoral, unethical, and downright criminal.

As the parent of three children with disabilities, I have abundant experience with staff. I meet staff at school. I welcome staff into my home. I take my children to the staff that peoples the clinics and hospitals where they receive services.

I’ve met and grown to love and cherish some really excellent people who will, I have no doubt, be part of our lives for many, many years to come. I’ve also worked with truly competent and caring individuals who have come in and out of our lives, each in their own season. I’ve been touched by the amazing abilities of people who I work with over a single day, who I probably will never see again, whose names I don’t even know.

I’ve also been forced to interact with staff who disregard my children’s well-being. Some were incompetent. Others were careless. Others did intentional harm.

Staff is a reality for most people in society. People with disabilities (and their families) often have to interact with staff much more than others, however, and we often have to depend on staff, regardless of whether those people are dependable. I suppose the same is true for others. In school. At a hospital or a clinic. There’s always the risk. But the more interactions you have, the greater the risk becomes. The statistics of the matter is against us.

So, I want to take this moment, this post, and say, “Thank you!” to the lovely nurse who made sure Alex’s MRI was safe, efficient, and as comfortable as possible for both my son and myself. I said it then. I know you heard me. You stopped, stood up from your stooped, busy position. Your face reflected your understanding. You smiled. You said, “You’re welcome.” Your voice reflected the same depth of emotion my own did. Though we used the common words of polite society, we used them with more meaning, more truth, more intent than is commonly found. I don’t know your name, but I know you made ours a better day, and I know I made yours a little better as well.

More than that, I want to say “THANK YOU!!!” to the wonderful people who have chosen to continue to be a part of my children’s lives, because they value who my children are as people. You are truly amazing and you are truly appreciated!

If only all the staff in our lives could be so wonderful.