If you have a son/daughter with unique abilities, who has not moved out and lived on their own, they likely have not experienced the spiritual, psychological and developmental value of being a roommate or having a roommate.
They are missing out on an important part of their development by not having a roommate.
At Homes Giving Hope we value the role of a roommate. Our Resident Assistant’s main role is to be a roommate to residents who live at Homes Giving Hope. What does it mean to be a roommate? It is someone who shares life with another person, who is not in the same family, who has not come from the same experiences, and who may see life from a totally different perspective. They experience life together as equals, sharing the joys and the sorrows. A roommate is a valuable tool for growth for all people, including individuals with unique needs.
Do you remember when you were in your 20s? Who were the main people in your life that you talked with about relationships, struggles, and dreams? It was likely a friend. It might be a fair statement that it was likely not someone in your family. It’s developmentally ‘normal’ to want to share experiences with someone your own age. If you lived away from home, there’s a good possibility that your roommate became that confidant to you as you entered into your early adult years.
When you are a person with a disability, it is possible that your world of social connections is limited. You have friends, but they may not always at the same level and same place in life as you are. Maybe they can relate to your life struggles and maybe they are not at the same level of development that you are. The value of a roommate is that you have someone close to your age, someone you can talk through the ups and downs of life. The companionship of a roommate can have a great impact on a persons life, someone to cry with at night, laugh with, make midnight french fry runs and share the same space with day after day.
When you were living at home, did you have responsibilities and you sometimes decide you didn’t want to do them? Chances are you were be scolded by a parent, privileges will be removed, and you were strongly encouraged to comply with their wishes. But did this change you internally? Likely not.
What if you did the same thing in a roommate situation, shirking your responsibilities? They can’t tell you what you can or can’t do, or at least they shouldn’t be. How does that situation play out? The person rubs shoulders daily with their roommate and they have the opportunity to be a positive part of the roommate situation, doing their part and making the burden easier, or they can be self-focused and disregard what others think or feel. If they choose to do the later, how long do you think their roommate situation will last before it deteriorates? They are in a situation where personal growth and awareness of others needs and interest are necessary in order to continue to have positive relationships. Now the stakes are higher and the growth is deeper. The stakes are higher because they could lose their roommate if they don’t put in the effort to get along. The other person may want out. But the growth is deeper because now they are more self-aware, more aware of how their actions impacts other, and they are left with a choice to truly change their behavior (not just comply because they have to) and reap the benefits of building a positive give and take relationship with another person.
This give and take, growth and awareness of others is essential to building relationships and when a person has a roommate, they can grow and develop in ways they are not able to while living at home.
The Bible says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”. Being a roommate and having a roommate provides opportunities for true growth and change. You can sharpen each other and grow into a more mature and other focused person. Jesus wants us to ‘look at others interest as more important than our own.’ What a beautiful way to practice this, living shoulder to shoulder, day to day, with a roommate.