Connecting with Community

Monday, July 23, 2012


I woke up with no desire to run and I have felt guilty all day. So I begin my work day by
running to pick up a donation way across town,
only to find that I am not quiet dressed for the occasion.
I return to my office empty handed but not before I get a lunch meeting in.

My next appointment is a conference call. I serve on a Peer Learning Group
and today is our first visit on what we are each doing to help young adults
earn a post secondary education. I dial in and sit quietly as the others chime in.
I listen and share as we speak of engagement and effectiveness.
We talk of sustainability and multisector initiatives.
An hour into the phone call I begin to day dream. I am not good at sitting I am better at
doing. I don't want to talk about things I want to do things, although I understand
dialogue is necessary especially if we wish to create lasting change.

I am ready to receive my first face to face for the day. She is eager to live in
her own place. She is eager to be self sufficient and I am eager to help her.
We go over her plan. She has an Associates in Business but working in
a warehouse because she can not seem to find a job in her field.
We begin by going over the many barriers we must overcome in order to get us to our destination.
Just talking about it makes me feel overwhelmed. 
Not her she is focused she has 5 little reasons that keep her that way.

I am interrupted by someone handing me a note. It reads "Jane Doe is waiting in the lobby."
I ask the family in front of me if I can have a few moments with the lady in the lobby.
They graciously agree. I escort the family I am working with to the lobby and call the other family in.

I greet and ask them to come in. As they sit I ask who referred them. The mom replies
" We went to a church for help and they sent us here." I smile and quickly begin filling out my form.
I ask for her needs. She states she is in need of help paying her rent.
I ask what has caused her to fall behind. She tells me "I was sick and so was my three year old. I
wanted to go to work but the daycare wouldn't let my baby stay because he was sick."
I ask her "Will you be able to pay your bills next month if we help you this month?"
She replies "yes."

I ask for her income just to make sure she will make it. She makes 900 and her bills are 1000
and that does not include food or hygiene.
I tell her she is still going to be short and she replies "No I sell my plasma,
I just couldn't sell my plasma last month because I was sick."
I then ask "Can you pay your bills without selling your plasma?"
She softly answers "No."
I tell her "I am sorry." I'm stunned I don't know what else to say.
She sees my sadness and responds with "no that's ok, I'm ok." 
I tell her "no that's not ok. It's not ok with me."  Through broken words she speaks again
 "It's ok, my head hurts for only two hours but then I am fine."

I gasp for breath and tell her "Together we will figure out a way. A way where you and
your baby can eat with out you selling your plasma." I get up to hug her and she is
shocked that I would care. Why would she be shocked that a person in "Social Service" would care?
She pats me on the back and tells me "thank you." I will never forget that gratitude.

I've only been doing this for a very short three years and I don't know that I will ever be okay with people suffering.
When it no longer breaks my heart to see people suffer I will find something else to do.
I want to be driven to help each person as if they belonged to me.

We are never so defensless against suffering as when we love.
Sigmund Freud

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