F Words

I was introduced recently to a concept I'd, strangely, never heard of before–a derogatory reference to the work most often available to people with intellectual disabilities.

Kyle cleans up after horses

The phrase is: “food, filth, and flowers,” and refers to the fact that if a person with IDs is going to find work, it's often in food service, janitorial work, or horticulture. 

Who on earth thought this up?!  And why would they? 

Work is prayer, said St. Benedict.  All work is sanctified if we treat it as if it matters and will bring happiness to others.

As a mom of four daughters, I've  scrubbed floors, changed diapers, washed clothes, and cleaned toilets for 50 years.  If I had a buck for every meal I've put on the table I'd be a rich woman.  The flowers?  I grub in the yard to bring them forth and delight in their beauty if a manage to coax them to bloom. 

Kristen disinfects the fridge handles

Outside the home I've worked as secretary, archivist, teacher of Spanish and English as a second language, and volunteer leader of a village construction project in Mexico.  For the latter assignment I scrubbed two public, concrete one-holers that had not been cleaned since their construction several years before.  It wasn't something I wanted to subject my volunteers to when they arrived on the scene.  (Believe it was a little Indian man in a dhoti who gave me the idea…)

When I walk into the Pavilion and see the floors shining, go into the kitchen and smell lunch being prepared,  stroll by the greenhouses and see the glorious poinsettias flaming read for a city block, I see pride in a job well done, I see accomplishment, I see integrity.

Pity the eye that sees nothing but “food, filth, and flowers.”

Above, Ranchers clear for fall garden