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Friday, June 24, 2016

Reconnecting

There has been a hole in my life for the past several years. Back in the BC (Before Children) time period, my first real job was working with emotionally disturbed children in a group home in Iowa. Because of social media, I have been able to reconnect with people from various periods throughout my lifetime. My whole lifetime has been covered with one exception: friends that I worked with in that group home. Within the past week, I have finally been able to make that reconnection, and it is quickly proving to be a very profound experience for me.

Working in that group home was the most stressful job I have ever had. The majority of the children were hyperactive. Couple that with the abuse and neglect most of them had suffered and you come up with some of the most challenging sorts of people to work with. The turnover rate is extremely high, but there are a few people, like myself, who have the strength and courage to stick it out for a while. It is easy to become close to your coworkers in such an environment. The shared stress and the teamwork involved in the process naturally brings people together.

I also credit these particular individuals with helping me get through one of the most difficult periods in my personal life. The birth and death of my first child, Arielle, occurred during this time frame. The fact that most of my friends were counselors and social workers who were empathetic and strong enabled me to talk about my feelings and resolve all the conflicting emotions inside myself much more quickly than I would have if I had average sorts of friends. 

I went into that job wanting to contribute. I had done some volunteer work with that same population while I was in high school, and it seemed to be a good fit. I always assumed this career field would be my particular path--until life got in the way. Children, divorce, and single-parenthood all contributed to re-evaluating that choice. The jobs I had after working in the group home all felt like jobs I fell into instead of jobs I felt called to do. Twenty-five years later, it still feels the same. Until now.

Upon reconnecting with some of these former coworkers and friends, I was finally given some big pieces in my life's puzzle which bring clarity. Although they accepted my friend requests, I wondered if they remembered me. It has been a long time. One of them I asked specifically. She came back with something to the effect that "Of course I remember you. Your compassion and love for our work was above and beyond."

As I look back at my life, I understand something truly profound. What you do in life is not nearly as important as how you do it. Even though I fell into my job as a preschool teacher because of my need to work and my desire to still play a large role in raising my own children, it wasn't haphazard or worthless. I did a good job taking care of and teaching my young charges. I know I impacted the lives of others in positive ways as I still run into many of my former students, who often give me hugs and tell me what is going on in their lives today. My current job as a sales associate at a department store is the same. So many customers tell me they appreciate my patience and kindness. Even though the work is often tedious and mundane, the ability to reach out and help my fellow humans ultimately makes it much more worthwhile. 

I know now why I have been trying to reconnect with these particular friends for so long. Once again, I am able to see my entire life from a whole new perspective. Although my life has not gone according to plan and I have not impacted people in the ways I expected to, the people whose lives I have touched are better for it.

I am reminded of the Mother Teresa quote:
Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.

It is the little things we do every day that make profound impacts on the world. Reconnecting to this lost piece of my life has helped me remember. Clarity is a beautiful thing.

~CSE


  

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