Commitment Is Such a Lonely Word

One of my favorite Billy Joel songs is “Honesty.” Though it was written nearly 40 years ago, it still is relevant today. If you’ve never heard it, the theme relates to how honesty is such a lonely word, that everyone (well, most everyone) is so untrue.

In our world, where we rely on so many people to support Ben’s care and development, honesty can be a problem. Mostly, it’s the small things that are untrue, like when people call in sick when they’re really not.

A bigger problem in our world is actually commitment.

My Obsession

Perhaps it’s the lessons my parents drilled into my head – “if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well” – why I almost never quit. If I start something, I see it through to the end, for better or for worse, even if something more attractive comes along. That probably has something to do with me being married for 3 decades, although the unshakeable bond of an intensely, deep love is the real reason.

It’s probably the reason for my obsession to help Ben become the person he is meant to be and why I won’t rest until that day comes.

It’s probably the reason why I have set the bar so high when it comes to others’ commitment. If I’m on this journey with Ben, and others choose to join me, I expect no less than complete dedication and commitment.

When it comes to caregivers and education assistants over the last 24 years, Ben has had some great ones and some real duds. The duds are partly our failure to properly screen their character, their skills and their … you guessed it … commitment, although that’s a tough one to assess.

We recently hired two new education assistants to support Ben in his pursuit of completing his university studies. One of those persons had been part of his team, on a casual basis, for the past 5 years so commitment was part of her vernacular. The other—a very keen, enthusiastic, and experienced person—was brand new to the team. In the first 2 weeks, she demonstrated a never ending desire to learn everything that could be learned to help Ben. Arriving early, not leaving until the tasks were completed. Commitment, it seemed, would be a natural trait.

Two weeks into classes, we received a text message from her on a Sunday evening, telling us she wasn’t feeling well and would not be in for her shift on Monday. On that Monday evening, she sent us another text saying she had been accepted into a nursing programme; other students had dropped out leaving new spots opened. If she didn’t accept this time, it would be another two years before the opportunity came around again.

Being enrolled in a full-time nursing programme and working as a full-time education assistant supporting a person with complex disabilities didn’t seem even remotely possible to me. But she wanted to try, though it would mean some re-arranging of everyone’s schedules.

Another Re-start

A week into this modified arrangement proved to be too much for her, leaving us little choice but to start looking for a replacement.

Gone were the weeks of training we dedicated ourselves to bringing her up the steep learning curve to support Ben.

Gone was the stability we thought we had finally restored to our lives.

Gone was someone with whom Ben had developed a good teacher/student relationship.

I know that becoming a nurse was her true, long-term career goal and that she wouldn’t be Ben’s education assistant forever. And that waiting two more years to start that journey is a very long time. So many life events could happen that could jeopardize that dream.

But three weeks into this role, a role that requires dedication and creativity for at least a semester at a time, how did she reason that it would be ok to abruptly start chasing a new shiny ball? Where was the consideration and obligation to Ben’s life goals? Where was the sense of duty to finish what she started?

Where was the commitment?

I stewed and brewed about this unfairness. While in this state of consternation, I decided to change the lyrics to my favorite Billy Joel song (without his permission), and called it “Commitment”:

“If you search for tenderness
It isn't hard to find
You can have the love you need to live
But if you look for dedication
You might just as well be blind
It always seems to be so hard to give
Commitment, you see, is such a lonely word
Promises are always broken
Commitment, it’s true, is hardly ever heard
And mostly what we need for Ben
I can always find someone
To say they’re keen and energized
When they learn about how far Ben has come
But when I want sincerity
Tell me where else can I turn
Cause they’re the ones that Ben depends upon
Commitment, you see, is such a lonely word
Promises are always broken
Commitment, it’s true, is hardly ever heard
And mostly what we need for Ben”

Two weeks later, I’m still trying to figure out why we’re being tested again. Why does Ben have to pay the price again? Why do we have to climb this mountain again? With 24 years of hiring (and, sometimes, firing) caregivers, you’d think we’d have this mastered.

Maybe this is how God feels when I don’t live up to my obligations to Him.

The wounds with this one are very raw right now. I’m going to have to lean on His unwavering commitment to carry us through again, and every other time the world lets us down.