From one Christmas to another, those happy years went by at Maplewood Lodge, shaping us all in ways we were hardly aware of.
Paul continued his work at Pine Ridge; always in a battle for some improvement or another. He petitioned for a "village area" on the institution property, where several portables gave some people an opportunity to live in a more homelike environment and get ready for the next step--living in the outside world--"the community." He fought for breakfast to be cooked "on the ward" on the weekends, so that the residents could have the pleasure of smelling bacon and eggs cooking. It also meant that they could sleep in later on those days and not miss breakfast--simple things everyone takes for granted. Before this, some people did stay up later on Fridays and Saturdays and were tired, but the night shift would get everyone up early in order to change the bed linens as the day shift didn't like having to do it. It was a short change for staff and those that had worked until 11 the night before were back at 7.00 a.m. and not always in good humour. The weekends, as a result of short fuses all around, were times when there were many behavioural outbursts.
When Paul asked for breakfast to be cooked on the ward, he was asked how 52 people could fit into the small dining area there. He said that if his guess was correct, people would get up as they woke up, in dribs and drabs--and that is exactly what happened. The table never had more people around it than would fit, and the atmosphere had changed from tense to relaxed.
Maplewood Lodge became a mandatory placement for the students going through the DSW course each year as the coordinator of the program, Mrs. Eileen Moran, a feisty Irish nurse, had taught Paul when he was taking the MRC course. Every February and March, pairs of students would come for a couple of weeks at a time and do part of their course work at our home. It might be coordinating a special event, such as a Valentines party; or putting together a program to teach someone a skill.
It struck me as very sneaky of God that he had taken this rather shy, introvert who would not have described herself as a people person, and plunked her into an environment full of all kinds of people. It was during this period that I went from being a detached, and often critical, observer of people, to someone who had grown to love people with a love that was birthed in a heart bigger than my own. It was a true metamorphosis and one about which I wrote in 1979 in my journal:
I've suddenly realized that something wonderful has taken place within me. I LOVE PEOPLE! ME the loner; the aloof one; the silent and critical observer! God has done something within me. I know that I am seeing the fulfillment of the verse God gave me last year:
Phil 1:9-11 in The Way. ..My prayer for you is that you will overflow more and more with love for others, and at the same time keep on growing in spiritual knowledge and insight.
Anyone reading this diary knows that a big flaw in me has been a difficulty in relating to people; in really caring for people. God began to reveal this to me last April and once I faced it, he began to work in me. Colossians 2 verse 10 says: "And ye are complete in him." Well, he has come in and really made me complete because I've been healed and made whole. I love everyone as they are and in spite of what they are! I just had to write it down for God's glory. If someone reads this, maybe they have doubted the reality of God. Please, I am an intelligent human being (30 years later I'm not so sure of that) who faced with a lack of feeling for others, prayed for God's compassion; God's love. I say with the blind man healed by Jesus: One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see. John 9:25.
Our children, too, were being shaped by our unusual family setting. Certainly there must have been a down side, but it never really was evident to me. Their horizons were much broader than they would have been otherwise, because every student that spent time with us also engaged with them. I was tired, but I was young enough then that I survived the long days and unremitting pace and I enjoyed the solitude when everyone else had left for work and school, and I was alone with my thoughts as I shopped and cleaned and cooked and did the many other things needed.
I began to attend occasional meetings at Pine Ridge. I remember my first time because I held a piece of paper in my hand that shook as hard as my hand, so intimidated was I by the professionals around the table. I grew in confidence and knowledge though and began to develop a set of deep values about working with people who need support. Our years of living with people taught me that people really are more the same than different and that disability wasn't the difference so much as just another part of someone.
I made some close friends on the staff at Pine Ridge and our home became a place where God led people looking for spiritual conversations and prayer; a mutual blessing.
We, who really only intended to do "this" for two years; found ourselves almost nine years in, when a wind of change began blowing...a wind that would bring changes I never imagined.