Monday, December 29, 2008

things I love

I post a lot about the hard stuff at work. The stuff that breaks my heart. The stuff that hurts. The stuff that makes me wonder about society and the world I live in. And that stuff is very real. What's also very real is all the good stuff. The great stuff. The stuff that makes me come back day after day (because it's certainly not the money...)

I love the clients I work with. They are an amazing group of people and despite the fact that they are homeless and living on the fringes of society they give me huge hope for the future of humanity and faith in the resiliency of the spirit (and the body for that matter). While some of the people I work with are very down and very unhappy with their circumstances, some of them are the happiest people I know. People who are genuinely fun to be around and have the kind of smiles that just make you want to smile along too.

Ed is an older gentleman, definitely a senior citizen and has been living on the streets for a very long time. I almost never call him Eddy the way most of the staff do. To me he is always Mr. Johnson. I'm not sure how that started, maybe because he's older or maybe it was a joke and he really seemed to like it, i don't remember anymore. Mr. Johnson always has a smile for me and when I have time to sit down with him he always has something to say. Once, he was explaining to me that he always carries food with him and he pulled from inside his jacket an entire package of bacon and exclaimed "I eat it raw!"

Then there's Frank. Frank spends most of his time drunk, or at least a bit tipsy, and yet he almost always manages to stay sober enough to function. He used to have a hat that said "drunk man walking" and it was the most appropriate thing! Frank always has a grin for me, and when he's standing or sitting, a handshake (i see him lying down in the shelter a lot). Frank has the distinction of being the only client to have ever kissed me. I was shaking his hand one day when he pulled it to his mouth and kissed it, to which I replied "no kisses Frank" and I remind him of this often when I think he's going to try again. I think he's about 40, but it's hard to know.

Greg is a very quiet man, but when I've had the opportunity to sit and talk with him I've been able to learn a lot about him. He's a traveler, and has been all over Canada, but stays here to look after his sister, who he is always losing (they get drunk and separated most often, or so it seems). His sister has facial features which suggest FASD and it seems likely he looked after her when they were children as well. The one thing about Greg, a happy go lucky sort of guy, to be careful about, is waking him up. Both the police and I have made that mistake. He once almost got arrested for assaulting a police officer when they woke him up while he was sleeping on a park bench and he took a swing at them. He'll utter strings of profanities and insults if his sleep his disturbed. Then, once awake, he comes over and apologizes quite sincerly.

People like these are the people who make my job worth doing. If everyone I worked with threatened to kill me and gave me huge guilt trips I'm pretty sure I couldn't do what I do. It's the balance that makes it do able. I balance I've so far been able to find.


cb said...

You know, I really appreciate your insights into your work over the last few months or so - what definitely comes across is your respect for the people who work with and that is priceless.
Hope the new year finds you well!

Lisa said...

I agree with cb... I love reading your blog!

By the way, I am currently listening to a book-on-CD that you might really enjoy:

"The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music" by Steve Lopez.

A journalist from the Los Angeles Times meets a homeless violinist named Nathaniel Ayers - and discovers that Nathaniel used to be a student at Julliard.

It's a true story,


Still Dreaming said...

thanks guys :)

I'll have to look at that Lisa. I LOVE books and reading. I can't get enough of it! And a book to listen to in the car... also good!