green beer & belonging

green beer & belonging

“Can we go out for a green beer?”

You need to understand, this is not a question that I was expecting at work on St. Patrick’s Day. I was one of two managers (hey Frank!) whose staff teams were welcoming five men with exceptional support needs. They moved from an institution into a community setting on March 16 and 17, 1999.

Reg moved in on the 17th and within minutes asked me about going for a green beer, noting he hadn’t had a green beer for two decades (I share Reg’s name as he has since passed away). Not being a beer drinker, and not ever having that question asked of me before by someone I supported, I stalled and said, ‘maybe’.

Around mid-afternoon Reg asked about dinner time, stating he was thirsty. I walked with him to the fridge, showed him where the glasses were, and he helped himself to a big glass of milk. (Reg put on a lot of weight those first few months as he adjusted to his new home). Reg’s glass of milk and other decisions he made in the days that followed helped me realize that living in community is often about choice.

So on St. Patrick’s day in 1999 – for the first time in my life – I arranged for a group of guys to go for beers – green beers! (for the record, the staff had pop). The five men toasted to ‘freedom’. We all toasted to their new home.

Today I toast Reg’s memory and the other four men who got a new chance at community 18 years ago – on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m grateful for each of them, that our stories were able to intersect, and that they helped me gain a new understanding of communities of belonging.

Cheers! To belonging!

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