Change inevitable

Some change is forced on us.

I was downsized from a job I held for 24 years. I was given a choice: Accept a buyout or a 40 percent pay cut along with an increased workload. My job was eliminated.

Some changes we choose.

I volunteer with an organization called We Care We Share in Lorain, Ohio. It offers a food pantry two afternoons a week. I learned from a friend that volunteers were needed there, so I showed up one day and began volunteering. I didn’t have to do that, but I chose to.

Some change is inevitable.

Some of the hairs on my head are turning gray. My eyes also change over time; I’m due for another check-up one of these days. I’ll probably need a new eyeglasses prescription. The joys of aging.

If there’s one constant in life, it’s that there’s nothing constant in life.

Moment by moment, we change

No two days are exactly alike. Change is the name of the game.

The car I drive is 23 years old. It’s still running pretty well, but the mechanic recommended $1,600 in repairs to keep it up to speed. I’m not sure the car is worth that, so we’ll probably replace it in the near future.

I’ve attended three funerals in the past two months. All were for senior citizens, thankfully, but still: People wear out, just like cars do.

There’s no anti-aging pill that lasts forever, much as science has tried to find one.

We make choices literally every minute of every day. To get up in the morning, or not. What to eat for breakfast. Or not. Whether to show up for work or an appointment on time. Or not. Whether to look for a new job, a new relationship, a new residence (including a new location sometimes) …

We bought a house a year and a half ago, after renting for 3.5 years. We did some remodeling in the kitchen last fall because my wife wanted to put her touch on our home. That’s certainly a good thing. But what to remodel and how to do it were choices we had to make – and you’d do it differently, I’m sure.

I won’t even get into politics. We all know the contrasts between our current president and the previous one.

Think big picture. We change presidents every four or eight years. Change is inevitable.

The U.S. Constitution is more than 200 years old, but even that has been expanded. And new laws are passed all the time, federally, at the state level and locally.

Change changes us

Hearts and minds change too, sometimes dramatically.

At my last job, I worked with adults with developmental disabilities. Some of those folks were born with their disabilities, but others received their mental and/or physical disabilities through trauma. One guy fell off a roof. Another was abused terribly as a child.

Even those born with disabilities can learn to overcome them, to a degree. Those folks can accomplish a lot more than we often give them credit for. Even if they can’t communicate well, they often see and understand quite a lot. And they can communicate – with sign language, facial expressions, nodding yes or no, and in other ways.

I left there because not all change is good. And some changes I felt were necessary weren’t happening.

Choices.

Some people quit smoking. Some people conquer a drug or alcohol addiction. These things aren’t easy, but they can be done.

It’s easier if we make the choice to avoid those substances before we even start. But we need strong grown-ups to lead their children away from those temptations, don’t we, since most addictions start when we are young.

Addictions are not inevitable. Broken families are not inevitable. Some of us are exposed to these things earlier than others of us are, but each of us is responsible for our own choices.

Fighting change, or embracing it

If life doesn’t go the way we’d like it to – and it won’t, sooner or later – we have choices to make. Dozens of my former co-workers got downsized at the same time I did. A few got jobs in other career fields right away, or a short time later. A couple of them retired. Some stayed with the company, with new responsibilities – and in some cases, a new location. I took the buyout and sat on my hands and knees for awhile until the buyout ended, then took a $9 an hour job while I figured out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

Same scenario, different choices.

Different results.

Many of my former co-workers are still in the same city. Some of us aren’t.

Here in northeast Ohio, Republic Steel and U.S. Steel factories are idle, the result of layoffs. One of those plants may resume production soon on a limited basis. General Motors Corp. just closed a factory in Lordstown, a little more than an hour’s drive from here, putting 1,435 workers in the unemployment line.

The cycle continues.

Change is inevitable. Sometimes we choose it, sometimes we don’t.

How we respond to change determines the course our lives will take.

We can fight change.

Or we can embrace it.

Even that is a choice.

The one constant

Are there any constants in life, besides change? Any at all?

Only one.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8

 

That’s it.

Whoever hears these sayings of mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

Jesus speaking, in Matthew 7:24-25

 

No foundation on Earth lasts like that. All of them will eventually crumble, whether a physical building or a moral or spiritual truth that we base our lives upon.

Even as the winds of life  blow – and they certainly will – we have a foundation to fall back on.

That’s why I’m a Christian. When the storms of life threaten to carry me away (you know what I mean), I have a home base that will protect me.

I change, certainly. I learn and grow, hopefully. I am not the person I was 10 years ago, when I was downsized. Or even last year.

But even as my job situation fluctuated and my location changed, the God I worship did not change. He supports me when all else fails me.

Sometimes, we don’t discover how much we need a rock until change threatens to destroy us.

Climb on the rock. You’re never far from it, no matter who or where you are.

That’s your sanctuary in the storms of life.

Crazy start, wonderful ending

I started work early last Thursday, thanks to an extra assignment. As a driver for adults with developmental disabilities, on this particular day I was to pick up a wheelchair-bound person at his temporary residence in a nursing home and transport him to a nearby hospital for early morning surgery.

Another staff person was to meet me at the day program center where I work in Elyria, Ohio. She would lead me to the nursing home, and to the hospital.

It was cold outside. I started my van at 6 a.m. to warm it up.

Blizzard strikes

Almost immediately, it started snowing. Hard. I had to run the windshield wipers so I could see.

This was the first week of April, after Easter. So much for an early spring.

Ten minutes later my co-worker arrived. She drove her personal vehicle and I followed in my wheelchair-accessible van.

We got on eastbound Interstate 90. Traffic was heavy – and going 25 mph. The highway was slick. Several vehicles, mostly pickups, had buried themselves down the embankment on the side of the highway. This winter storm came quickly, without warning.

I trudged along at 25-30 mph, two hands on the wheel, wipers activated for the blowing snow.  The news station I listen to in the morning reported numerous wrecks throughout the area. Traffic stopped completely on one interstate, and slowed to a crawl on several others – including the one I was on.

I kept my eyes forward, on my co-worker’s vehicle up ahead. She had told me which exit to take, so we caravanned off the highway and eventually reached the nursing home just over the Bay Village line.

She went inside and retrieved our patient. I loaded him into my van.

We got back on I-90. Traffic was moving a little faster now, thankfully, but snow continued to fall. We got off a few exits later and before long arrived at Fairview Hospital on Cleveland’s west side.

His surgery was scheduled for 7 a.m. We arrived about 7:10 a.m. It’s the best we could do.

Here comes the sun

Normally I start my shift at the day program and head east. Since this was Thursday, my first stop was in Columbia Station. Then, I pick up an individual in Strongsville.

Since I knew the day before about this extra run to the hospital, I told the Columbia Station individual’s mom that I’d be late this day. Good thing. I’m usually at their house about 7:15 a.m.

Instead, I changed my morning route a little. Starting from Fairview as the sun was supposed to come up, I jumped on southbound Interstate 71. Northbound I-71 heading into Cleveland was stopped for several miles, due to a couple of those weather-related wrecks I heard about on the radio. Southbound, we moved fairly well – not at highway speeds because it was still snowing, but at least we were moving.

I got off at the appropriate exit and arrived at my Strongsville destination on time. I took a deep breath and gave a prayer of thanks.

From there, I drove west to Columbia Station, arriving at about 8 a.m. They were very understanding, and appreciated my heads-up that I’d be late.

Oh, yes. Since I was south of Cleveland by now, the sun was shining and the roads were clear. The snow didn’t reach this area at all. With this storm, only the northern regions by Lake Erie were affected.

Were they ever.

I finished my route uneventfully and arrived at the day program center relatively on time, grateful for a safe drive.

A special outing

That day, we had an outing scheduled in Brunswick, about a 40-minite drive away. Since Brunswick is south of Strongsville, the weather was fine in that direction.

I took two individuals – one in a wheelchair, one ambulatory – to Scene 75, which offers arcade-style games that our individuals could enjoy. We had planned to take more individuals but our bus was in the shop, so we didn’t have the transportation for a big group.

The three of us arrived at 11 a.m. when Scene 75 opened. We ate lunch first, like we often do at our outings, then spent the rest of our time enjoying the games. Both individuals had a good time, playing games each enjoyed. Money was put on a game card for each of them, and when the cards were used up, we cashed in the tickets they won for a few prizes, then drove back to the center.

Because our bus was unavailable, I had to make an extra run to take several of our folks to their home before making my regular afternoon run.

I ended the day about 5 p.m., which is typical for me. A busy 11-hour day (I don’t often stay all day; four days a week I get several hours off midday so I don’t go over 40 hours), with a crazy first hour on the highways.

Of those 11 hours, I spent a total of less than one at the day program center. All of it was on the road or at Scene 75.

Some days are like that.

The reward

The next day, the snow was long gone and all was back to normal. When I returned to the day program in the afternoon, something happened that makes this job worth doing. The ambulatory individual I took to Scene 75 put down the tablet he enjoys when at the day program, walked over to where I was standing, gave me a big smile, then gave me a side hug.

I’d never seen him do that before, with me or any other staff person. He is non-verbal, but I felt he was thanking me for a good time the day before.

After the hug, he returned to his seat and picked up his tablet, continuing on with his day.

My heart was full. The fact that only three of us went on that outing meant that I could give almost undivided attention to both individuals. I think they appreciated that.

That’s what our day program is all about. Connecting with the community. Connecting with each other. Sometimes it’s hard. Plans don’t always go smoothly.

But when they do, even on a day that gets off to a crazy start, it makes this job special.

Got to go. I’ll get lunch here at home, then head back to the center shortly thereafter for my afternoon run.

We’ll see what today holds.