Friday, November 6, 2015

this job

I just happen to be blessed enough that this ^^ is the job of my dreams

Yes, it's another post about how much I love my new job. It truly never gets old.

The people. Both with whom we serve and for whom we serve.

The energy. In the community, in the opportunities waiting at the state and federal levels.

But mostly?

Because this work has been my heart's desire as long as I can remember.

Social work is a hard field.

Resources are limited. Despair is plentiful. Crises rule. Political ideology divides the community.

But still, hope rises, beauty emerging from the ashes of a broken spirit.

And that is the hook for me. 

That triumphant ascension of a restored spirit is so damned beautiful. I am drawn like a moth to the flame - it might hurt a bit or even a lot, but I just can't resist being part of the process.

Today, I facilitated a meeting with my employee (still in training) and a participant whose case is complicated (but aren't they all?). At the end, my staff member thanked me for my help and guidance, saying, "To see and hear how others word things and how they encourage our participants is so helpful to me. You taught me a lot today."

It made me think of a few of the most vivid memories of my career....

The first time I put my blood, sweat and tears into my work...(read the entire post here , but the most important part follows):
.... There he was sitting on a bench on the sidewalk.

“How's it going this evening, sir?”
“Purty good, girl, now whatcha up to?" he slurred.
He's pretty well lit you know.
“You're pretty quick," I said with a wink. "Well, my friends and I are doing surveys for the statewide homeless count that's going on tonight, and I wondered if we could take a few minutes of your time and go over the survey. Everything is completely private and cannot be traced back to you. Whaddya say, huh?" ...
… At the last question, asking what services had he attempted to access but couldn't obtain, he verbally offered up "respect," as the number one thing he wanted but couldn't get.
I showed him the paper, and said, "Look, I want you to see me write that down. I think it's very important that the state know this is important to you. What about the rest of these, housing, job assistance, clothing....?"
… We crossed over the intersection to head up north on the west side of the street we'd just been on. Shortly after, Seth directed us to look across the street. Our guy had already put on the t-shirt in his goodie bag”
We just made his night didn't we?" Seth asked incredulously.
I nodded, misty-eyed. "He may not remember it tomorrow, but for a few minutes tonight he was reminded that he matters."
The time I was going to grad school and Christ showed up as a homeless man.

… It was then that I saw Him.

I thanked the Lord for showing Himself to me, as I walked past the homeless man who’d just scored the remnants of a to-go box out of the trash. I hurried past him returning to my plastic bag of goodies, saw it was still there, grabbed it and started back toward the man.

When I stopped at the bench on the sidewalk where he sat, he looked puzzled, his face begging the question, “Didn’t you just walk past me?”

“How’s it going?” I asked him with a smile.

He looked up skeptical, but overall in good spirits. “Good, how ‘bout yourself?”

“Good. Hey, you’ll probably think I’m crazy, but I just last night bought a bunch of snacky-type food that I really only need a little of – and when I walked by you the first time, I couldn’t help but think that perhaps I could share my extras with you. Could you use some bagels and whatnot?”

His face lit up – sure, he said, he could use all the help he could get. However, he told me, he only had room for some, not all of what I was planning on giving him.

It is always so poignant to me when those in need reveal that they haven’t lost all of their need for human dignity, despite primal survival instincts.
We sat and talked, with no strings attached to case management or service plans, for a good 45 minutes on that bench.

Passersby stared at us, this unlikely pairing of a grubby old chronic and a young professional woman, neatly done up for the day.>/p>

His name was Rick. He was a vet who had fallen in love with the rich culture of the “old world,” while stationed overseas, and felt that we Americans had no culture in the arena of art or history, and what we did have was being replaced with TV, technology and rampant materialism. Somewhere along the conversation, he asked me why I was “bothering” with him. I told him I used to work with the homeless in Fort Collins, but that I was out of the “business” nowadays. I told him I missed the contact.

....In short, our conversation was highly enjoyable, intelligent discourse covering a vast array of topics.

Rick asked my name, and I told him, saying, “I don’t know that we’ll ever meet again, but it does feel good to know a person’s name, huh?”

He agreed, saying perhaps we would meet again, that we “never know.”

I bid Rick adieu, shook his hand unabashedly, and headed down to the university.

And the time after I'd put my career on hold.

Yesterday I received an e-mail from my former boss telling me that a woman, let's just call her Ladybug, had stopped by the office looking for me. She thought that Ladybug had been a former housing client of mine.

I looked at Ladybug's name and indeed, she was a former housing client of mine....

Today I called her, and we talked a bit before she revealed the reason for her wanting to get in touch with me. Being pregnant, I teared up with emotion when she told me that the 4 (or more? she couldn't remember anymore) people who'd been put in my housing coordinator position over the past 5 years have "never even come close to how good you were, Heather. Never. And I think about you a lot.”

We talked some more and at the end, Ladybug asked me shyly, "Is it ok if I keep your number and call if anything else comes up?"

I'm not a social worker anymore, and now I can put myself forward as just a person who loves others as Christ has shown me to do.

As a social worker, this would have been a taboo move to make, but there was something freeing about the answer I put forth: "Sure, Ladybug. Maybe we can even get lunch together sometime."

Whether I'm on a payroll or not, my heart longs to be helping others, in big, transformational ways down to the reaffirming display that I recognize someone's worth, even if society does not.

And I am so filled with joy to not only be doing it again, but this time, training others as they join me.

Someone once told me:

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