I had kind of a neat opportunity this morning to go and help some of the people that live over at the Developmental Center that is right next to the temple. It is a center for the mentally retarded.
I ended up going by myself, mostly because they only asked the elders in the ward and the youth to help out. This seemed to be a good idea probably because I think my better half would have probably been in tears for most of it anyway. There is a chapel that is north and west of the Mt. Timpanogos temple, and the center is almost attached to it, although it's still state-run and not directly affiliated with the Church.
We received some instruction in a meeting beforehand, then they walked us over to the patients and we wheeled them over to the chapel where they participate (and maybe that word should be in quotes when referencing some of the experience the patients had there) in church meetings.
I happened to be paired up with Doug. He wouldn't engage anyone in conversation, which is pretty typical of most of this population, but there were moments that you could get his attention, and he would make his ba-ba-ba noises towards you. He also laughed a good amount. He must have been in his late 60s if I were judging him by my normal standards, but I don't know if these people age differently than most people do.
The ward leaders like to have as many of them participate as much as they can in the meetings, so they ask them to give prayers in church, some to administer the sacrament, and even say the sacrament prayers. Some of those were kind of funny to me because the words were indecipherable, I'm pretty sure to anyone, but they had them say the prayers nonetheless. They didn't have them repeat the sacrament prayer even when it just came out as a bunch of grunts.
The patients are incredibly sweet. They make noises the whole time; they're very affectionate, and they never hesitate at expressing their feelings, good or bad, though I only saw good this day. They don't really communicate with words well, or at all, so physical contact is the only way many of them communicate. They want to help and join in at any point that they're asked to without any reservation about any kind of social norms that the rest of us obey. And I think that's one of the most interesting things about them. They're clearly adults in body, but so incredibly child-like in spirit. The developmentally most mature of any of them were only teens at best, and there were only a few of those, but most were like 6-18 month-olds.
A ward choir was formed where volunteers and patients alike were asked to sing I Am a Child of God and the few patients who got up sang proudly and with little concern about the musicality of their words.
Anyway, it got me thinking a lot about these kinds of people, their purpose here. Any one of those people automatically requires a number of caretakers. One-on-one would never be enough to meet all the needs that any of them has, unless that person ministering sacrificed his life entirely for that individual. For a center that houses more than 200 patients, I imagine it requires a staff of at least 2-3 times that many people to ever meet the immediate needs that all of them have, not to mention the amount of money that must be generated for the resources that they all require. All of a sudden, well over a thousand people have to contribute so that they can go on with their lives. And that's only at the present moment. Like I said, my guy looked to be at least in his 60s, so that means for decades these people will go on living without anything to offer back besides their own sweet spirits, which I guess is what they're there for - to help us become more like them: "as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father."
It was just a neat experience that I thought was worth sharing. I'll revisit this topic more later.