Still With Me After All These Years
As the oldest of 4 boys, I remember growing up as what someone may have said, the “Warden of the Hyatt Boys.” Sounds like a great movie doesn’t it? While my parents worked tirelessly to provide for us on a daily, I patrolled the halls, with a focus on keeping those young bucks in line. But my methods during that era, were very different to how I live now.
I remember one summer evening, one of my brothers, went running into the house yelling. Trying not to slip on the tears that were falling on each step, I quickly chased him up the front stairs. He ran straight into my dad’s arms and through the sniffles, he was able to mutter, “Jason called me worthless .” My father, a man who was always calm, positive, and rarely raised his voice towards us, showed me a different side that day. As I walked into the kitchen, attempting to give my side of the story, he stopped me with a quick look; a look that could have stopped a grizzly bear in it’s tracks, drop to the ground, and lay in front of a fireplace. I couldn’t have been older that 10 or 11, but what he said to me that day, struck a cord, words that I’ve countlessly reflected back on time after time. “Don’t ever say that to anyone, you don’t know how much that can impact someone for the rest of their lives.” During that time, I of course, being the stubborn one of the boys, didn’t pay much mind to that statement, however, I’ve carried those 21 words with me to this day. We can empathize with what others have been through, but we will truly never fully understand how their experiences and their truths, have shaped their lives. As I’ve grown, I’m thankful that my father was able to share this wisdom with me, even with it being close to 30 years ago, it still speaks to me as if it just was told to me.
Think about how many times a client has shared with us a painful memory from their past. They’ve been forced to carry this weight with them everyday. At times it has frozen their ability to make healthy choices. Unable to break free, they float into decisions that take them on a river of despair. It’s a lofty expectation for us to believe why someone just can’t change quickly. Even with the great effort that each of us end up putting into their lives, the ability to apply the very skill that can charter their life in a more positive direction remains a constant battle. Think about this for a minute, when someone walks through our doors, we are immediately being assessed to see if we can be trusted. Why shouldn’t they do this? The very people who were supposed to love and care for them, were the ones who hurt and broke that promise years ago. When we begin to look for moments to strengthen, develop, and foster these relationships with the people we serve, we are then showing them that there is hope out in this big world. These critical moments can be the creation of a new foundation, another chance to heal wounds that have been open for years. The way we interact, communicate, and nurture these connections, will leave an imprint on someone for good, or, bad. We have the amazing opportunity to help people heal and take control of their life, or, if we don’t choose our words, body language, and tone carefully, we can make people sicker and never help those scars to mend.
Undoubtedly, the work we do can be draining and difficult at times. As we come to this agency each day, I invite you to come in with a renewed sense of hope, an understanding that the effort you put into someone’s recovery is meaningful and lasting. At times, the thanks and growth is usually small, but when we plant seeds, we need to have the patience, that with the right amount of support, it will grow into something amazing one day. Do we just throw our seeds into the rocks and expect them to grow? Or, do we place them in rich soil, where they can lay roots? We may in fact never see that flower bloom, but know that at some point, even the smallest leaf will begin to push through the ground in order to reach for the sun.
How can we breathe hope into the work we do? Here’s the amazing thing, we all possess a skill that we can put into practice right away, no matter our education or background of where we came from. Encouragement. Encouraging each other, every step of the way, not only is easy, but when we consciously practice this, it can begin to shift the outlook someone may have even when faced with most difficult struggles. A simple positive comment to lift a co-worker up during a meeting can be powerful. Pointing out how much effort someone is pouring into their life, and more importantly that it s not going unnoticed, can be life changing. Instead of examining each other through the magnifying glass of what we are not doing right, we should be building upon every person’s strengths, if we only begin to examine things through a slightly different lens.
Someone asked me one day, “Why is it I always see you smiling at everyone?” I paused for a second, as I haven’t really thought about this question before. But my answer was an easy one, why not? Just a simple smile and a kind word while someone is sitting there, can be the life line for someone to see the world as not such a scary place, but a place where change is possible. So while the stairs that everyone walks may be soaked in tears, know that if we stay patient and persistent in our unconditional effort to encourage, we in fact do change lives…