“I.T. is here. I.T. is here to fix your problem.”
That’s the greeting staff members receive at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington (CCADW) when Joseph Jackson arrives at their work stations.
Jackson, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age 3 (he’s 28 now), is one of CCADW’s I.T. technicians, and his typical workday is busy with responding to the staff’s technology woes.
“Here’s the rundown of what I do,” Jackson said. “My job is basically helping employees whenever they have problems with their computers, also their phones and printers. Like, for example, they can’t log in or their computers are running slow, they can’t print, or they need a voicemail password reset, and so forth.”
Jackson loves his job at CCADW, and although he understands that having Asperger’s Syndrome brings attention his way, he does not seek it out. “People like to see me as a special kind of being,” Jackson said, “but me, I just want to be an average man with an average job and an average life. I don’t want to be too special; just a normal guy. Nothing else.”
Monsignor John Enzler, president and CEO of CCADW, sees Jackson’s contribution to the agency in the wider context of the Catholic faith. While he appreciates Jackson’s wish to be a normal guy, the truth is that Jackson and every other employee at CCADW has a special God-given gift to offer the world.
“All of us have different abilities,” Enzler said. “Recognizing that can be a kind of leaven that reminds us that the job is important, but the most important thing is how we work together and make a difference for others.”
As a Catholic organization, CCADW is motivated by the gospel message of Jesus and guided by Catholic social and moral teaching. While not everyone who works at the agency is Catholic, everyone is expected to be faithful to all the things Jesus taught. This means receiving anyone – Catholic or not – who comes for help as one would receive Jesus, and it includes treating fellow workers with the same respect.
Hiring Jackson and being open to the special gifts he can share is right in line with Catholic values, and Enzler encourages other employers to consider the talents and abilities of each individual seeking a job: “If people are willing to take a look, to see what possible skill, what possible value, what possible assistance someone who has developmental differences can add, then they’ll find that there are a lot of things individuals can do if they just give them a chance.”
Jackson has been accepted by the entire staff at CCADW, and he sees himself as part of the team and working to fulfill CCADW’s mission.
“He is loved throughout the whole agency,” Enzler said, “because he’s funny and he’s good and he’s competent and he’s got a wonderful personality, and he really is a value added for us. And I think he knows that what he does is making the work of Catholic Charities move more smoothly. And he understands, I think, that if you have a little bit of a difference in development or whatever, it doesn’t stop you from participating and helping others. And he does that so well.”
And it turns out that Jackson knows a lot more than how he fits in with the agency. When asked what Catholic Charities means to him, Jackson said:
“It means that we’re giving people a lot of hope in their lives: all those people who are homeless, lacking in money and all that other stuff, facing big life problems. We’re placing a light of hope inside their hearts. That’s what I believe Catholic Charities is about.”
That’s pretty special.
[Joseph Jackson is the son of Ron Jackson, senior director of government affairs at Catholic Charities USA.]