“Did you SEE him? Every day, he stands in the middle of the road asking for a handout”… I was standing in line at the grocery store trying desperately to mind my own business. I mean, I was REALLY trying, here.
I have discovered that because I have to remain so compartmentalized emotionally in private care in order to effectively do my job, I have lost what little ability I had to restrain myself from speaking my thoughts off the clock…it’s caused me a few wrinkles so I’ve been working on it with relatively little success.
“Probably going to use it on drugs. You know how those people are.” That is it. This is a person, a human being with a story and life experiences and challenges these judgmental, thoughtless and mean spirited ladies could not imagine.
I happened to know the man in the road. At one point, he was one of my residents. He did have a drug problem. He was also a veteran who was living with a variety of mental and emotional disorders. He was also a father. At one point, he was a husband. And someone’s son. These women didn’t see that. It didn’t even cross their minds as they mindlessly mimicked the sound bites that are played over and over again on the air waves, ad nauseam.
And really, even if he wasn’t all of those things, how about showing just a little compassion for another human being who is clearly suffering? If they didn’t want to give him any money, that’s their business but was it necessary to demean him loudly enough for me to hear in a public setting?! What could they possibly gain from that other than a misplaced sense of moral superiority?
May’s post this week was spot on. As caregivers, we are so often surrounded by worst case scenarios. We are surrounded by people whose bodies and minds and experiences have been dramatically altered in some way at a point in their lives. We face our own “what ifs” every single day. That gives us a unique opportunity to learn from these survivors and empower them. Through our actions and care, it is possible to teach others who have given up that life is worthwhile and trusting one another is worth the risk of disappointment. Our clients have no choice but to trust us to help them. They are forced, by necessity, to be in vulnerable positions. In order to make them feel as comfortable as possible, I share my own vulnerabilities. It’s been a great help. That was not on the test. Like May, the most important, beneficial, and enjoyable parts of this job I learned by doing; by trial and error. None of it was necessary for certification.
To do this job well, it’s necessary to reach far above the standards set by the state’s certification requirements. We work with a challenging and varied demographic and our abilities need to adapt and grow as we go. What we learn and pass on is so much bigger than what is on the skills test.
More than anything else, this work has taught me how to see beyond the surface; to look through the scars and damage to the person underneath and to remind them why they are beautiful. After working a very long shift, this was a lesson that I was more than happy to share with the loud, obnoxious shoppers in front of me.
“Excuse me?” the lady said as her friend continued to unload her shopping cart.
“I said wow! You must have waaaaay fewer skeletons in your closet or mistakes in your life than I do to be casting such heavy stones. And before you go off in a rage about political correctness, let me be clear. You are free to say, think, and feel whatever you want without fear of prosecution. The court of public opinion is an entirely different matter. If you don’t want to be called a jerk for being a jerk then I wouldn’t choose to stand in line with me.”…drop mic. I probably shouldn’t have done that but damn, it felt good.