As part of my weekly tasks, one of my responsibilities is accompanying Jango, also known as His Majesty, to his favorite restaurant—Burger King. It is without question that Burger King is the only venue suitable for a pampered pooch who truly believes that he is royalty.
Jango pensively sits in the front seat as I, his driver, ascend upon the Window of Drive to deal with the details involved with petitioning his request. Small fries, no salt, preferably warm.
As the server promptly appears before His Majesty with the satchel of feast, Jango nods with approval. Dismissive. Unbothered. Satisfied.
Over time, many of the servers at Burger King have become quite fond of His Majesty’s weekly visits and have outwardly expressed their excitement to be in his presence each week. They have worked hard to attend to the needs of His Majesty and often take the time to inquire about his well-being if his schedule does not permit a visit for a week or so.
Nate* is one of Jango’s servers. Often, Nate was the person that provided His Majesty with his satchel of feast. Nate was kind, prompt, courteous, and had an infectious smile that got bolder whenever he saw Jango. Nate has been Jango’s server for almost 2 years.
This year, the SOAR TA Center hosted the second SOAR Leaders Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference’s purpose was to provide SOAR State Team Leads from across the country the opportunity to meet in person, collaborate, exchange ideas to address challenges, and celebrate implementation success. I was able to secure a guest speaker with lived expertise that was willing to share their SOAR success with the conference participants. In preparation for the conference, I communicated with the guest via telephone and eagerly awaited the opportunity to meet in person. The day of the conference, to my surprise, the guest for our conference was Nate—Jango’s server with the infectious smile behind the window of drive that so attentively provided the satchel of feast for His Majesty!
Nate did a fantastic job; alongside his mother, he shared his struggles—experiences of homelessness, serious mental illness, and incarceration—and his triumphs of receiving benefits through SOAR services and reentering the workforce. More importantly to me, Nate’s presence is a reminder that people with disabling conditions are part of our community and every effort of support is worth it. Some would say that this was a coincidence, but I say that it is evidence that SOAR work is meaningful work that impacts communities more than we realize. SOAR can bring healthcare, housing access, and hope to people. Healthy people make healthy communities, simple as that. My community is no exception, and neither is anyone else’s.
After the conference, Nate and I shared stories of our interactions with Jango and the gratitude we feel to have served His Majesty.
*Name has been changed to protect anonymity.