This is not a cliché.

The stories of March

Every day a new story
18 March 2015

A chromosone extra ... and a great passion for life!

In my email account there are several references to "Astrid in the hotel with us". These email exchanges in object tell a precious story indeed. Astrid is a girl a little different in that she has  Trisomy 21, better known as Downs Syndrome. It was just over a month ago that we discussed at an internal heads of sector meeting the idea of having a differently abled person work with us here in the hotel.
“Many of us were somewhat concerned at the outset of this experiment, certainly a concern born of ignorance and not knowing how to deal with certain situations. Unfortuately it is a failing which results from the world we live in.”
The idea was a consequence of a theme which we consider continuously – i.e. our place of work is not one purely of work but one where there is the opportunity to grow, to improve ourselves, and to involve ourselves in different activities. Clearly such aspirations have to be reconciled with company considerations such as profit and effectiveness, and not necessarily are the two counterparts always compatible. And of course to reconcile aspirations for the common good with economic return is not always the interest of everybody. However in this instance we managed to pass from the idea to the fact – the mountains may be hard to climb but where there is the will there is often the way! We cooperated with the Casa di Pederoa, it concerned with assisting persons with special needs to be integrated in one reality or another, and so Astrid was our reward! Astrid is 20 years old and has the ambition to become a waitress or, preferably, a pastry cook. At present she is working here with us 3 days a week. When she first arrived she was rather quiet and shy and I remember her sat in a chair stealing the occasional nervous yet curious look at me. In a short while however Astrid has had an amazing effect on we staff, for she has shown herself to be never tense, never worried, and with a smile always ready to penetrate her lips. It is true to say that many of us were somewhat concerned at the outset of this experiment, certainly a concern borne of ignorance and not knowing how to deal with certain situations. Unfortunately it is a failing which results from the world we live in where too often, and probably in a real idiotic interpretation of things, we feel obliged to run, run, and then run more, and any person who does not match suit is deemed to be a handicap. In simple words we have no sense of, nor appreciation of time. I guess this was the worry of us all and that what almost frightened us to death – how, with a person with special needs working alongside us, would we be able to do the jobs we were accustomed to doing in rapid time. How fast or how slow would she work? Who would handle her timetable? Who would check the work she did? The surprise is that this month when Astrid has been with us has been a month of great satisfaction, for her attitude and constant happiness has taught many of us, nigh all of us, how to appreciate the very nature of time. The reason is that when Astrid does things she does them well, she is part of every moment, and it is easy for us to appreciate each and every singular action. Astrid does not reason in terms of multitasking, she does not open a thousand files at the same time ... and then leave them all open as we often do! When Astrid is talking with you she does not attempt to pull out a mobile phone nor seek other distraction – you know that she is listening to you and to you alone.  Astrid has taught us that running and running more does not necessarily mean to be more productive. In fact we have learned that the help she has given us has made a real difference. Here in the office area she has taken care of various jobs requiring a certain precision, and many the time I have been impressed with her perfect execution of the task before her. Whilst working with Stefan she has been involved in doing floral arrangements, and how pleased she has been to do some of her own! And what a joy to see her walking through he foyer with two vases in hand and a ready smile directed towards us. Also Astrid has helped out Maximilian in the breakfast room and has again shown a skill for attention to detail in the way she has laid the tables, complete of course with white gloves so that no semblance of professionalism is missing!  Astrid now moves serenely around the various hotel areas and it is as if a trail of joy follows her. Where will this experience with Astrid lead us to? Maybe we are not so sure as yet but one thing is definitely for sure – we have realised, and there is an element of stupor about it, that it has not been Astrid who has benefitted most from this period but it is we who have gained something from her manner and involvement. Thank you dear Astrid – you are simply the best!

Valerio Cabiddu