October 13 – hard knock life

81/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Before becoming a teacher, I worked for Welfare (Social Services & Housing) for about 2 years. I was 23 years old and got a job working in the Vancouver offices of the system. I was a case worker and would be in offices all over the downtown core and the eastside for extended periods. My eyes were opened and my heart was too. Although I had lived a tough life growing up, I always had food, care, schooling and a bed. At this job, I saw and dealt with things that were unimaginable to me. I worked with clients at St Paul’s Hospital in the late stages of AIDS and I was their only support person. I worked with clients with extreme mental health concerns that I had to find the right services for. I worked with clients who were the early ones to be transgender and went to workshops to gain a better understanding for myself. I worked with clients who had major drug and alcohol dependency issues affecting their personal lives. I worked with clients who were prostitutes who were making just enough to feed themselves and their children. I worked with clients who were battered and homeless finding shelter for the weekend for them. These were just the regulars – I had many clients on my caseload with stories one could not fathom. Once again, I was only 23. My mother was scared for me – yes, of course she would be because understandably, this was foreign territory to not only her but many people. I recall meeting some of my clients whilst out with my friends for an evening and striking up a conversation to the shock and, at times, chagrin of those friends. These were people with life circumstances that brought them there. Regardless of how they got there, they were human beings who deserved dignity. Just because one can’t relate doesn’t mean one has to disrespect. I learned a great deal about myself through that experience and it forever changed the way I looked at people and life in general. I thank the clients that I worked with – because of them, I developed a sense of compassion and understanding that serves me well today. I dot the Is and cross the Ts in your honour.

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