May 23 – welfare words of wisdom

303/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.   One of the best jobs that prepared me for life surprisingly wasn’t teaching.  After finishing my Bachelors of Commerce degree and realizing that a career in business was not for me, I quit and started on a career search contemplating many paths (even a prison guard!!).  I eventually ended up working at Social Services & Housing or more commonly known as the Welfare Department.  I have written a couple of gratitude posts about a secretary, a part-time employee and a client from there who had an impact on me but tonight it’s about the co-workers I had.  If not for them, I really don’t know how this young 20 something got through one of the most stressful jobs there was (I worked in every office in Vancouver – Skid Row being one of my long term stints).  I remember John and Dorothy both well in their 60s working at the Renfrew office.  I learned two things from them – John had compassion and care for his clients and Dorothy was just doing it for the pay cheque and of the two, I knew who I wanted to be.  There was a funky lady who would come down from Brackendale every day to work in the same office – she was biding her time until a position close to home opened up and I learned from her that sometimes you have to make sacrifices in order to do what you want to do.  While working at the offices on Robson & Denman, I met co-workers Rena and Xanthy who were polar opposites – an older black lesbian and a young, Greek diva – but both of them had a passion for life and living in them and no matter how depressing/demanding the job got, they knew that there was more to life and I learned balance from them.  Sid was an easy going, classy guy who also happened to be at the Davie Street offices.  He gave me the best advice – don’t let the job consume you and remember that you have to leave things at the office.  I haven’t seen or run into these people now for nearly three decades but there advice and words (as well as others I didn’t mention in this post) still live with and give me the perspective in teaching that I need.  Thank you my Welfare co-workers for the impact that you had on a guy just starting into the work world!  I needed it.


March 23 – by George

242/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  One of my favourite yet craziest and most challenging jobs I ever had was working for Social Services and Housing (Welfare) when I was in my very early 20s. My mom – the crazy, judgmental parent (at times) told me that I would get killed working with those people!!! Yup, that’s the type of advice she’d give me when she didn’t understand things. However, I learned so much about myself in that job especially growing up on this side of the fence. I worked with many people over my two and a half year career but the people I remember are some of the stand-out clients. The one guy that really affected me was George. He was First Peoples and my client at the Main and Hastings branch that I was a regular at. We had some crazy times in that office – I mean the front desk window was made of plexiglass and you’d think we would be safe when the main Vancouver police station was across the street but no, we had many incidents that required the shutting down of the office. I learned how to set up my office so I could run out if I had to for my own safety!! George would come in high and sometimes homeless losing his cheque over a drinking binge. But he would always be honest with me and own up to what had happened. He’d crack jokes and I felt a fondness for him as he was real and I didn’t feel like I was being used just as a money conduit. He took my advice for rehab classes – unfortunately never really finishing them.   When I switched offices, of course I lost contact with George but one day I happened to be downtown with friends and there was George! He saw me and recognized me and called out my name and I was like “Hey George” – he chatted with me briefly but sadly he was aware of the awkwardness from my friends but I gave him the respect he deserved. He high fived me and cracked another joke and then he was on his way. I’d like to think that I made a difference in George’s life and that he found his way but that’s probably not the case; however, he was one of the reasons that I got into teaching as I knew my role was to make an impact earlier in lives rather than later. Thank you George for showing me that everyone is worthy and to keep me cognizant of why I teach.