I think I've grown jaded. The things I talk about in a day - for work - would make my mother's teeth fall out. I'm at the point where there is little that shocks me. Working in a sexuality clinic for several years you kind of hear it all. I remember being asked to do a keynote speach for a conference on sexuality about how those that work at the respected end of the sex trade can keep a joyous approach to sex when daily you trudge through the muck of human relationships. Let's just say that my talk ended up on the front page of the paper and shocked half the audience - never been invited back to talk again.
All this is to say that little shocks me. Until the other day I thought that maybe I was well past shock. So much so that I'd even lost the desire to shock. If I'd written this piece a few years ago, I'd be throwing in some wild stuff to illustrate the point - but, yawn, I don't care to anymore.
But the other day, I was truly shocked. Taken aback. Surprised, even. I was at work and visiting a group home. A woman with a disability was having a truly, truly bad day. She was being supported by a young male staff who was being as gentle and supportive as it was possible to be. But this woman was having none of it - her peace was disturbed so she chose to disturb the peace of others. She went on full attack. This man, who had only been kind to her, was her target. The words that came out of her mouth were vile, racist and full of taunt. She practically begged for a reaction.
She was met - right there with anger seeping out her pours - with his grace. The kind of grace you read about in books. Hear about in prayers. Think of as mystical. His calm wasn't shattered, hurt didn't form in his eyes, instead concern was written all over his face. Slowly she calmed and slowly she regained what control she needed to stop her attack. I don't know if she ever apologized. I knew, that for him, her quiet was enough.
I sat in the car moments after this had occurred and I felt deep shock. Not at her words. No, I was shocked by him. Who was this guy?
Where did he get that calm, that loving concern. From what source does that kind of caring spring? You know, just from hearing the tenor of his voice that he's not paid to say the words he says to soothe her - he believes them.
Why do those who have to care in the face of hostility get honoured the least in our services? I wonder if those in position of real power - funding power -payroll power -respecting power have any idea of the quality of people we have working in care for those with disabilities. Even I, myself, get distracted by what's wrong with care, what's wrong with staff, what's wrong wrong wrong.
Then, I'm hit, square in the face with grace and calm and intense support. Broadsided by a simple act of caring. And I'm shocked. Shocked by all that's right with what we do. Not only right - magnificent. I'm shocked, further, by the fact that he isn't alone. That he was just the one that I saw at that moment.
I hereby declare tomorrow (which means the day after you read this) as thank a staff day. It's National Thank a Staff Day. It's time to acknowledge those moments wherein the sheer beauty of human services shines through. It's ok to feel unabashed pride in what we do. We can work on fixing the rest the day after tomorrow.