Kristopher is a soft-spoken and affectionate man with a spontaneous sense of humor. He enjoys singing and dancing, photography, colorful shoes, window shopping at the mall, and meeting people. He does talented impersonations of several television characters, but Kristopher’s best impersonation is of his favorite person, his mother.
Since graduating high school Kristopher has spent a lot of time at home with his mom, mostly watching children’s TV programs in his room or visiting Chuck E. Cheeses with his young nephews. A segregated day program or sheltered workshop were the only options being considered for his future.
Samantha Selman was invited to become Kristopher’s citizen advocate. She was asked to imagine what a larger world for Kristopher would look like. Samantha introduced Kristopher to Dave N Busters where they plan to celebrate his next birthday with other people their own age. Samantha connects Kristopher to her friends and family, and consistently thinks about more ways for Kristopher to be involved in ordinary community life.
Samantha and Kristopher go out for lunch, shop at their favorite stores, and go to movies together. In the process they have discovered that their shared gift is embracing one another and other people. This is their way of being in the world. Samantha says, “I’m so impressed with Kristopher,” and Kristopher says, “Samantha is my best friend.” At the very deepest level, this relationship is about what these two are to one another.
Citizen advocacy at its core is about what people can come to mean to one another. Supporting advocates to think beyond “doing,” into “being,” can lead to authentic and long lasting relationships. Mutual interests and gifts are recognized and brought to the larger community, and ongoing protection happens for the person with the disability. At the same time, the citizen advocate often discovers a great deal about their own attitudes and ideals.