Lifesharing, which is different from the more traditional shared living, simply means that people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities live together in a mutually supportive way. Cadmus households are led by single people or couples who make long-term commitments to Lifesharing and may also include their children. Lifesharing households often include one or more volunteers who typically give one year of service to live within our Lifesharing households. They get to know the individuals as family members and are trusted partners in giving support. Our volunteers often say that they get more from living within our households than they give.
From Lori Warner, a former Householder with Cadmus:
On a Personal Note…
When I was a young girl, supper was one of my favorite times of the day. My parents, three younger siblings and I often played the “What If” game. Directed by my creative and thoughtful dad, seemingly impossible scenarios would be tossed out for discussion, debate, and dissection. “What if (for instance)…everything in the World, the whole Universe, everything we know…was just a speck of dust on a giant’s night table…and (dramatic pause)…He spilled a glass of water!?” Then with an animated point of a finger or an emphatic “GO!” the one chosen to be first would begin to paint the scene, explore the phenomenon. “What does it look like?” “What do you see?” “Don’t assume you know the answer!” “Look newly.” “Where are you in the picture?” Along the years, that enthusiastic coaching and invaluable practice has served me well. It is what brought me to here and certainly has had much to do with my choice to stay.
The essence of my experience of life sharing may be articulated through the lens of our family game. Throw 12 people, including four young adults with special needs, two children and a menagerie of pets together in one house. Add the differences of culture, language, socio-economic background, age, marital status, and life experience. Cloak them in a vision, mission statement, bylaws, and budgets. Now, call it Home. Yes, providing a home rather than “home-like” environment is priceless; providing meaningful, age-appropriate work and diverse social and cultural experiences is important; the beautiful and unavoidable connections that arise out of living 24/7 as a family are irreplaceable. But, “What If”…
What if … more is possible, more than providing a service or lifestyle for individuals with special needs? What if a calling of service could also be a model to facilitate our own inner work, serving the highest good not only of ourselves but also of Cadmus and that of our larger communities? I have had qualities of my own, favorite and not so, mirrored back to me, had many kind and gentle reminders of where my own challenges or ‘special needs’ may get in the way, have been given the grace to make mistakes, space to learn and grow, and acceptance that allows for wanting to try harder. I know that what brings the greatest joy is most often invisible and our capacities for ‘knowing’ can be developed and broadened. Each time I look anew, I see more of what makes us human, of what emerges in forms of intuition or imagination as our highest selves. If these life sharing experiences make me and each of my housemates, a better person, global citizen, evolutionary being, and if we, in turn, affect each of our individual encounters and communities, what might be the rippling results?
Meal times are still a favorite for me. Good food, prepared with love, eaten together in our entire splendor. Each personality displayed authentically, contributing for better or worse. Some of the funniest, most surprising and touching moments, not to mention sound tracks, have taken place around a large table. Our first annual house trip to Florida was incredible, an epic journey that bound us together in a way that only being vulnerable and free together could do. Co-creating in the garden, participating in the mysteries of nature, feeling the satisfaction of hard work and reaping the fruits and vegetables of our labor brings us full circle to the table.
True, life sharing can be hard; it’s exhausting, often requiring different boundaries of self. At times, I’ve felt frustrated or inadequate. Equally true, is that in nearly two years, I believe I’ve laughed every day, experienced love every day, been surprised every day. I have never awaked to a feeling of dread or discontent. I experience less personal stress than when in so-called professional life; I am, overall, healthier than ever. This has to be contagious and personally it doesn’t matter who spreads what to whom.
What if…our differences were only that and not value judgments. What if the way we live our lives contributes positively to those we may never meet; what if by not deciding how it already is, we open possibilities for how it may be? Now, imagine me twirling around, gesticulating grandly, extending an arm toward you…and pointing. “GO!”