I had the most amazing English teacher in high school. The reason I loved him was because of his gifted story telling; the stories were thought provoking, honest, and inspiring. His stories are burned in my memory over twenty years later and inspired me to think differently about the world around me and to become a teacher myself.

One thing Mr. Grant made me think differently about was my Christian faith – this was no small task for a young, questioning mind in a Catholic school. He shared that it was easy to be a Christmas Christian – we all love that version of the story. Who doesn’t love a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger? The season of warmth and giving. But Mr. Grant said the real call of our faith (and challenge) is the Easter Christian- the call that puts others first, to “pick up your cross and follow me”. Pick up your cross and follow me? Gosh, that’s a big ask, but that’s the call. Christianity is a call to serve others, to follow Jesus’ message of peace and caring for others. While Christmas can be seen as the season of giving, Easter calls us to social justice. We need both- the giving and the service, which is the fundamental call of Christ.

Let me tell you about Saralyn. Saralyn is a person living with disabilities. Sarah has shown bravery by sharing her story of what it’s like to live with a disability with the intent to inform and shed light on what it’s like. After a lengthy prognosis, Saralyn was diagnosed with Narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder for which there is no cure. Saralyn has worked many jobs throughout her life; all of which she describes with great pride:

“I like to think I have an amazing resumé. I’ve had jobs I was proud of…. I was being recognized and rewarded! My customer service was impeccable, I had a stack of recommendation certificates. I loved my jobs.”

While Sarah had much success through her working life, she also experienced setback after setback due to her narcolepsy: “If you can’t do everything above quota, you fail. My successes didn’t count up against my failures.” Narcolepsy deeply affects Saralyn’s energy and wellness: “It’s a downward spiral of exhaustion, cognitive impairment, physical weakness and depression… I have been on ODSP for over 10 years while raising my children and providing non-profit rescue services for dogs. It’s what I did to be something, someone, after many jobs creating an impressive resumé. What isn’t on that resumé, however, are the days spent in hospital, in doctor’s offices, on medical leave, again, and again, and again.”

Just because she may not fit in the typical work week schedule, does that mean she doesn’t belong or have value? Do we really want to be a society that cannot find a place for someone that wants to contribute?

Saralyn says: “I have this little daydream telling people close to me that I am going to work. I feel proud even in the imaginary moment. Even if I don’t make a lot, I want to make a difference. I know I can, I have before. I want to feel again what I felt when I was part of a team.” We have to ask ourselves, what is the call?

Mr. Grant reminds me of the importance of supporting initiatives like The Raw Carrot – an organization that truly cares about vulnerable and marginalized members of our community. The Raw Carrot supports social justice in our community by providing meaningful work to those that are most in need. It’s important to support local business like this because by doing so they are able to serve the community by providing the dignity of work to those like Saralyn that may not otherwise have the chance. A place that, while being successful and making a wonderful product, never puts profit ahead of people. The Raw Carrot is both the Christmas Christian and the Easter Christian.

*By Amanda Whalen O’Conner