Saturday, December 20, 2008

"To: Friend Doug"

It was a Friday, and this was my fifth and last client I had to see. I came to the client's apartment with a preset mind of stress. It was stress that I blamed on him, just like I did with the other consumers: The feeling that they don't need services; the constant calls about nothing but problems; the long drives to their homes to be told that they don't want to be seen; the lies they tell; all of the rescheduling due to petty reasons (My favorite one: "It's because I've been staying home all week from the weather and I've been lazy). With all of that considered, I forget why I do this job.

I come into this client's low-income apartment making sure I don't blow off steam on him, cataloging everything he's done to upset me throughout the whole week. I also make sure I come in with a smile, as always, though I'm eager to set off a calm yet stern-voiced lecture. All of my meetings start with me being an affable image, and this one was no different.

I'm glad I kept my cool, as he pointed to a dresser and told me there was something for me there. It was an envelope. The cover read: "To: Friend Doug." I opened it and pulled out a Christmas card with a greeting. In it was writing that looked like a six-year-old's construction with poor grammar and no consideration of spaces, but this was coming from a middle-aged man. It was the message that made me choke:

"I hope you have a safe trip back east to Virginia

Your Friend,

I smiled a big smile. I looked at him and made sure he knew how much I loved the gift. The gift wasn't the card with a nice message, but it was the thought and appreciation behind it. So, is this is what it feels like to be a teacher? To have a student genuinely acknowledge the work you're doing for them? Because I sure am proud to have someone realize that I'm not just there to give him a hard time and tell him what to do.

This isn't the only case that had me recognize (again) that this job is worth-while. I see improvements, goals being met, thanks being given and effort being put out through each of my clients. I still run into brick walls, but I recognize that it'll take a small drill to slowly get through towards the goal.

I love helping and I love my job.