by April Campbell
Brenna, our Program Assistant, has asked the staff and volunteers at the OAC to write down any interactions that have somehow affected us so that we may share it with everyone via social media. While thinking about what to write for this month’s blog, I thought about her request and reflected on an interaction that I had with a guest last week.
Mr. K came in on snowy Friday morning asking for assistance with getting his food stamps turned back on. Mr. K became argumentative with myself and our security guard, Larry, and was being asked to leave and come back a different day. Mr. K looked at me with tears in his eyes and said that he was “tired of being treated as less than a person” and that “today has already been such a hard day”. Mr. K become unconsolable so I asked him to come into the art room with me to talk while myself and another guest assisted him with gathering his things. Mr. K followed me to the room where we had a conversation surrounding his mental health diagnosis, his feelings of frustration and insignificance, and how he has been living in his situation since 2006 and feels as though he cannot get the assistance he needs. I was able to spend about 20 minutes with Mr. K and during that time I was reminded that every person has their own story and is dealing with their own struggles. In the work that we do this is so important to remember.
Some days at the OAC are more difficult than others. Sometimes there is so much chaos and confusion happening that I find myself being distracted by everything else and forgetting what drew me here in the first place: to help people. Helping someone doesn’t just mean listening to their problem, finding a solution, and sending them out our doors. Helping them means actually hearing them: hearing their frustration, their pain, their struggle and their sadness: Their Story. It’s about hearing what they may not be saying and being understanding that they are dealing with situations that I cannot even imagine. My interaction with Mr. K caused me to remember that every person I meet at the OAC has their own unique story and that it takes me hearing them with open ears and an open heart to hear what that story is.