There are definitely moments during which I hate my job, moments when I question everything I'm doing, and not doing, and of course, there are moments when I'm simply so overwhelmed I feeling like quiting. Then there are the things that make everything so so worth it. The moments that help me see that I am making a difference, even if it's small, and that the work we do does matter.
A prime of example of this is our van patrol. Some nights we patrol the street and don't talk to a single person. Other nights all we do is ferry people to and from the hospitals feeling like a taxi service. Some nights we give out more condoms then I can count, and I begin to question the principles of harm reduction. And then some nights, I know that we did something good, and occasionally I know that we may have, or did, save someone's life. While it feels good, this particular story also makes me really mad as well as making me question my self, good stories do that though.
It's a cold Canadian night and I'm cruising back from picking up donations at a convinence store with the new guy watching for girls working the street along the way. Suddenly I notice something on the curb "did you see that?" I say to the new guy as I make a u-turn in the middle of a somewhat major street pulling up along side the object of my interest. Only it's not just an object, it's a person. A person lying in the snow dressed only in jeans and I t-shirt. "What do we do?" asks the new guy, "we start with the basics" I answer, and so we do.
The new guy and I put on gloves and jump out of the van to try and rouse the person. It takes awhile, but we're able to get them to come around a little "what's your name?, what's your name?" Nothing. We are however able to get him sitting up on a planter out of the snow. Of course, our normal van is broken and the one we're using doesn't have blankets in it... so for the second time this winter I take off my jacket and remove my sweater (thank goodness for layers) put my jacket back on and wrap my hoody around this freezing person. As I'm doing all this I am also calling an ambulance/police/help from my cell phone while new guy looks after our frozen victim.
The paramedic response time is surprisingly fast, the last time I called about a person passed out in the snow it took 20 minutes, this took about 3. "What's the story?" they ask. "I'm not sure, we couldn't get anything out of them at all, not a word". The paramedics try also, but to no avail and they take them off into the nice warm ambulance while I quickly steal back my sweater. Talking with one paramedic, the new guy asserts that "it looks like the person was pushed out of a car and left here". It could be very true, the positioning was right, and the lack of clothing fits that story. But that's all we know about this mystery person, we don't get follow up on these calls, especially when we have no names, and we drive off to continue our patrol.
Here's what makes me mad. This person was on a busy street for who knows how long and nobody did anything. On the other hand, new guy didn't see them whereas I was looking for things, many drivers probably didn't see a thing. Of the people who did see them we have to remember that concept I learned about in Social Psych but can't remember the name of. Basically that we all assume someone else will do something. There's also the whole "not wanting to get invovled thing". I can't say I blame them. It's interesting however that once we stopped, someone else stopped to make sure that we were okay. I'm not sure what I would have done if I was alone driving past a person on this particular street. I'm not sure I would have felt safe getting out of my car, and calling 911 is so ANNOYING if you're not up close and personal with the situation. Something to think about.
I guess every situation's different...