Sunday, June 22, 2008
why is it so wrong to care?
I may be new at my job, but I am not naive. I am not "not hardened". I am not hiding from reality. I just happen to care. The job I have now isn't my first experience with the population, far from it. I've seen it all before (well, not all, new and weird stuff happens everyday, but still, it's not "new"). And I still care.
A woman, who came in to IPDA (the drunk tank) as a Jane Doe (and probably should have gone to the hospital not us), had gone for a swim in our city's gross, disgusting and COLD river and was picked up extremely intoxicated with no pants on. When I went in to wake her up there was a puddle of urine on her cell floor and it took me a HARD shoulder pinch to wake her up. I would have gone for knuckles to the sternum next, but rolling her over would have landed her in the urine. And you know something. I felt bad for her.
I was talking about it with a coworker, and my coworker felt no sympathy for her what so ever and gave me a bit of a lecture about the fact that I had some. She pointed out that people are responsible for their actions, and that these are the consequences of her actions. Get drunk, party loudly, do stupid things, wind up in the tank. Plain and simple. And it is, I firmly believe that people are responsible for their actions. I don't think that has to stop me from feeling bad for them. It takes a lot before a person winds up half naked and dragged in. I have no idea what her life story is. But you know something, it doesn't matter. Because what matters is what I see before me. A wet, smelly, dirty, intoxicated, half naked woman. And I feel for her.
I don't think that makes me a bad social worker. I really don't. I'm writing about her tonight not because I'm "taking her home" with me, but because I'm pondering the thoughts of my coworker. She will not keep me up tonight. I don't think I let my sympathy get in the way of my empathy either. If I had been there when she was released I certainly wouldn't have bent over backwards to excuse her behaviour, but I would listen, find her some try clothes and try and connect her with any needed resources. I would try and understand what brought her to that point. And if she didn't want to talk, that's fine too.
I guess what I'm trying to say, is that I want to care about people. I think that is a big part of who I am, and I can't see that changing anytime soon. When I can't care about and feel some sense of sorrow for the people I work with, then I don't think I should be doing this work. On the other side of the coin, if I start caring too much, I start obsessing and despairing on a regular basis, that's bad too. If it effects my work so that I'm breaking rules and messing with the policies, that's a very bad sign. Right now though I feel like I have a healthy balance, and I pray that as I continue, I'll be able to maintain it.