Collette Divitto couldn’t get a job as a professional baker. Many of the applications she submitted got a similar response. “Your skills are great. You’re just not a good fit for our company.”
Undaunted, Collette started her own business selling cookies. With the help of social media and local news coverage, Collette’s home-based bakery picked up local clients and began getting mail orders from around the country.
If the proof is in the pudding—or, in Collette’s case, in the baked goods—Collette has plenty of ability. People can’t get enough of her cinnamon-dipped chocolate chip cookies. So you have to wonder what this “fit” issue was.
I don’t know Collette personally. And I’ve read no reports about why the Boston-area bakeries to which she applied—and apparently she applied to all of them—thought she wouldn’t fit into their operation. But I can say a few things about Collette on the basis of a news clip that I watched.
She’s in her upper twenties and brunette. Her eyes twinkle when she smiles and, at least in front of the camera, she smiles a lot. If moonwalking in the kitchen is any indication, she’s unselfconsciously playful. And she has Down Syndrome.
My guess is that it was not the color of her hair or the so-so quality of her moonwalk that turned off prospective employers. They may not have seen Collette at all. Instead, store managers may have seen their own outdated assumptions and expectations about people with Down Syndrome.
To borrow a phrase from Annie Dillard, “What you see is what you get.” Dillard didn’t mean by this, “What is is.” Instead, she was saying that all of us need to learn to see, to really see what is right in front of us. Otherwise we will miss the subtle textures and delicate hues of which our world is composed. We will merely skim the surface of a reality that contains inexhaustible, intoxicating depths. We will see only what our eyes can glimpse through the portals of our narrow minds.
Dillard learned to see in the natural environment surrounding her cabin in Tinker Creek, Virginia. The apostle Paul urges us to broaden our view of the human world in which we are immersed.
Paul realized that the citizens of his Hellenistic world divided each other into Jew or Greek, slave or free, us or them. Friend or foe. Useful or useless. To draw on Martin Buber, people habitually entered into I-It relationships with other people. In other words, people of the Hellenistic world weren’t all that different from people today.
We skim the surface of most other people. We make assumptions about them on the basis of their clothing or their speech patterns, the car they drive or the job they have. What we think we know about them is really not about them at all. We assess others according to their usefulness to us or their danger to us. Might they bring us pleasure or security or some advantage?
Prefiguring Buber, Paul urges us to enter into the incomparable mystery that is each individual human being. Buber referred to this as an I-You relationship. Paul coaxes us to recognize the Spirit that inhabits each of us in an infinite variety of ways.
Paul put it this way. We are all members of one Body. Each member is different from all the others. And yet all of these unique members are woven into one Body because we are inhabited by and animated by one Spirit.
We need each other in order to be who we most truly are. No two members of the Body are interchangeable. The foot cannot serve as a hand. Even the right hand cannot replace the left hand. No member of the Body is disposable.
Each member of the Body works together with the other members of the Body for the sake of a common purpose. Members of the Body cannot be what they are without cooperating with the other members. For instance, the eye cannot catch without the hand. And the hand needs the eye’s guidance to catch.
To put this another way, being human is a group project. To know ourselves and to be ourselves involve fitting with all other human beings in a common undertaking. Inhabited, empowered, and guided by the same Spirit, we are the hands and the feet that are healing and nurturing and renewing the world. The heart and eyes of mercy and compassion, justice and peace.
On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit inaugurated a community that would embody the ideal that everyone belongs. Everyone is indispensable and irreplaceable. Everyone fits. On our best days, that’s who the Church is. We represent to the world God’s dream for us all.
Collette’s dream, as it turns out, bears a remarkable resemblance to God’s dream for the world. She seeks more than a paycheck. She wants to form a company where people who have faced challenges and rejection, struggles and prejudice can discover their value and know that they are indispensable.
You might assume that Collette wants to employ people like her. But you would be missing the deeper point. She envisions a company that will hire people not because they are like her or anyone else in the firm. It will be a company where anyone and everyone belongs. A place where everyone fits.