A Hand Up


Well, this morning, I once again found myself feeling like I was in the middle of a tug war between wellness and illness, but I felt slightly better than I did yesterday morning.  I crawled out of bed and got ready for the day ahead, and although I felt less than great, I was on the look out for ways to do a bit of good for myself and others.

If you read this blog and my original blog, “That’s Another Story” (www.kristijojedlicki.wordpress.com), you have come to learn that my job at the local day shelter for men who are homeless is more than just a job to me, as I feel extremely humbled and blessed to be a small part of these men’s respective journeys.  Each man has his own unique story, and each day, they bring their past and recent experiences and their needs, wants, goals, dreams, and pain through our front doors in search of hope and help.  It was an incident involving one of these walking wounded souls today that gave me the unexpected chance to help.

These men all are special to me in their own way, and there are certain guys whom I know better than others.  I try to find a way to connect with each person, whether it be through humor, sports, music, literature, etc., and some connections are instantaneous, while others take longer to develop.  There is one gentleman whom I struck up an immediate connection over the fact that we both share the same birth year, and he loves to tell people that we are members of the “class of ’68” and that we look out for one another.  He is right on both counts, and today, it was my turn to have his back.

Like so many of these men, my “classmate” came to us after years of being homeless and coping with mental illness and trauma, both which can cause him not to act in appropriate or acceptable ways when he becomes upset.  He has been known to raise his voice, curse, and make verbal threats when agitated, but for some reason, he never has acted this way toward me and responds to me when I try to calm him down during these moments.  This morning, he became upset with another staff member and began to act out as I previously described, and because he had been warned multiple times about this volatile behavior, and in order to protect the staff, volunteers, and other guests, my classmate had been told that he risked being barred from the day shelter temporarily, if he had another outburst.  I was in another staff member’s office when I heard his raised voice, and while I had full confidence in our staff’s abilities to handle such situations, I knew that my classmate needed my help. 

As he made his way toward the staff member who was the target of his anger, I stood in front of him, gently put my hands on his shoulders, held his gaze, and calmly talked with him.  At first, he angrily told me why he was upset and ignored my attempts to soothe him, so, I simply listened and acknowledged his feelings, and I reminded him that if he did not calm down and handle this in a better manner that he would be barred, which would mean that we could not help him temporarily.  We really are one of his only support systems, so, even a temporary bar can feel like a lifetime.  I reassured him that we could work through this latest situation, but that I needed his help to resolve it.  He began to calm down and decided on his own to leave the shelter for the rest of the day to settle down and to “not do anything stupid”.  I told him that I was proud of him for making such a good decision and promised that we would address things further when he returned, and I walked him out of the center.  Before he left, he hugged me and said, “Thanks for everything, Miss Kristi.  Class of ’68 sticks together, and I love you.”  Later, the comment was made to me that he had been barred by every other shelter in the city and that no-one had the same favorable opinion of him like I did, and I smiled and thought to myself, “That’s their loss.”  He definitely is not perfect and is a diamond in the rough, but then again, so is his classmate.

This leads me to what I was able to do for myself today.  The men at the day shelter are among my wisest teachers, and they certainly taught me a lesson today.  When I stopped to talk with a group of men who were playing cards near my office, a few of them complimented me, and I immediately employed my self-deprecating humor to deflect and refute their kind words, as is a habit of mine.  It hurts to hear negative comments or harsh criticism, yet, in some respects, it is easier for me to accept unkind words than it is for me to receive compliments graciously.  When I made a joke at my expense, one of the gentlemen grabbed my right hand in his and looked me in the eyes and said, “You need to treat yourself as good as you treat us; you deserve to.” 

His words reminded me of a quote that I read recently that said something to the effect that when you’re making decisions, you should ask yourself, “If I truly loved myself, would I make this decision?”  So, throughout the day, I thought about both the gentleman’s words and this quote, and I was somewhat surprised at how often even small choices do not necessarily support or reflect the dreams and goals that I am pursuing and do not indicate the love and respect I proclaim to have for myself.  Even though I did not make 100% healthy or positive choices today, it definitely was food for thought and heightened my awareness about the negative thought patterns and behaviors that remain stumbling blocks in my life.  I do need to treat myself as good as I treat “my guys”, because I deserve to actually.  So, I shall.

Just one thing each day . . .

Categories: Just One Thing Each Day

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