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Zirpoli: An appreciation for those who put ‘service above self,’ today and every day

As we wake this morning to Christmas trees and gifts, many of my friends at Target Community & Educational Services, Inc. (Target), The Arc of Carroll County, Flying Colors of Success, and CHANGE, Inc. are working. They, along with many others responsible for the care of others, will spend the day taking care of our fellow citizens with disabilities in homes and residential facilities throughout the county and beyond.

These men and women have taken time away from their own families so that our citizens with disabilities are cared for today and receive the support they need to live independently within their local communities. Like every day of the year, they will prepare their clients’ breakfast, feed them in some cases, and try to make this day as special for them as it is for most of us.

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At Carroll Hospital, and in hospitals across the land, doctors, nurses, and other employees will care for the sick today as they do every day of the year. The same is true for nursing home employees and those who will leave their homes and travel to other people’s homes in order to provide care and support for another person in need.

I know that hundreds of hospice providers across Maryland are working at places like our Dove House in Carroll County. Many more are visiting patients in their homes. They will give up their holiday time with their own families in order to bring comfort to the dying and their family members.

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The same, of course, is true for our police, firefighters, other first responders. They will work today to help keep us safe. While we celebrate Christmas in our homes, they will spend time at their “office,” away from their own families, ready to respond to our emergencies.

And, of course, military personnel stationed around the world are separated from their families on this special day. The list goes on.

The Rotarian motto is “Service Above Self.” On this special day, many people are providing service to others, even as it means spending time away from their own families and their own holiday.

We are grateful to all of them.

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I have worked in the direct care business teaching about and providing care for people with disabilities since 1975 when I took my first professional job working with children who lived in a residential program in Norfolk, Virginia. From there, I moved to work with children with severe disabilities in a Virginia state training center. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with adults with developmental disabilities and, with the exception of my full-time work in academia for eight years, I’ve been doing that ever since.

Today, I split my time between McDaniel College and Target.

During my time at Target, I’ve had the privilege and honor to work with so many wonderful people who put the needs of others above self.

Many of these folks are young and have young families at home. Yet, they give up some of their family time today and happily care for others in need. I can tell you that these folks are a blessing to our community.

I believe that when you give to others you receive so much more in return. When you help others, you receive help from others. When you serve others, you are served by others. And when you forgive others, you receive forgiveness. My parents and colleagues have taught me these values and I am blessed to work with so many amazing people who provide “service above self” each and every day of the year.

Today, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. His message to the world was and remains simple: Love and care for those less fortunate than ourselves, provide shelter for the homeless, welcome and care for the stranger, and love all of his children as we love ourselves. No exceptions.

To all of you who serve others today, Merry Christmas! Thank you for all you do for those you serve and for your community. Your work and sacrifices on this and every day are appreciated.

Tom Zirpoli is the program coordinator of the Human Service Management graduate program at McDaniel College. His column appears on Wednesday. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

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