Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Comfort and Street Lights

Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night, I look out my living room window and take in the darkness littered with the lights of the city. My vista is comforting as I picture the people in their homes silently sleeping protected by the streetlights. I also know that there are others moms nursing their babies, parents up with a sick child, individuals fighting insomnia, artists in the flow working on a project, people fretting over big worries, workers going through their nocturnal workday............. all under the shimmer of the streetlights. We are connected by wakefulness. We are not alone.

I have been on the road these past 3 days meeting with individuals and sometimes their families who are applying for a disability pension. My role is to review their medical information, and complete a social type assessment to accompany their application.

These interviews are always interesting, often very sad, sometimes uplifting, somewhat emotionally draining and thought provoking. They are also an opportunity to connect on a level that most people never have a chance to experience. I'm grateful for the opportunity on many levels, but mostly because the lesson of compassion is clearly mine for the receiving.

The people I meet with need help and need to tell their stories. They are not feeling protected by the streetlights................... they feel disassociated from others -- alone in their suffering and misunderstood, most likely living in poverty with their disability struggling to exist under dire circumstances. What they need more than a few extra dollars is to be recognized as a person living under the streetlights.

There's nothing more powerful as far as I'm concerned than making a heart connection with someone. Though there are times when I feel like I have heard too many stories all at once, that I have opened myself up too much to a point where I drag myself home feeling vulnerably emotional, I know that the compassion I've felt comes with a little gift.


Joy that I have met someone who has trusted me enough to share their sorrows, and joy that I have been able to turn on a streetlight for them so that maybe they can find their way a little bit more easily. So, the next time I wake up in the middle of the night and look out my living room window, I'm comforted to know that another person maybe protected by the light from above.

"Joy is the secret gift of compassion. We keep forgetting it and thoughtlessly look elsewhere. but each time we return to where there is pain, we get a new glimpse of joy that is not of this world."
Henri Nouwen.


BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Whenever I come to your blog, it feels as if I am receiving a shot of enlightment...A truly painless injection, I might add.

awareness said...

Thank you for your comment Barbara. It's funny...... last night I felt like I had dried up completely on writing ideas. This afternoon, the idea popped into my head. I wasn't even sure if it was clear and linear, but I took a risk and wrote it down.
Your comments make me feel reassured.
What's interesting is that I also feel the same way when I read one of your posts.

Ellen said...

Sometimes being a shoulder to those who have nothing, is the vindication they need most at that moment. You have left behind light where there was darkness just by listening. You may have even prevented something worse from happening because all they wanted was a little understanding. So the beacon you offer them with your caring abilities may dim yours for the moment, but you have lit the room when dispair shrouded them in darkness. You can be proud of yourself for your compassionate abilities.

It takes a strong person to do your job, and a tender heart to feel the suffering you know they are going through. It's compassion in it's most raw form, and not easy for most people to do as a job.

X said...

I can imagine how sobering it is to meet with these people and how it puts other things into perspective. I hope they all get the help they need :)

awareness said...

Interestingly, I didn't know I was destined to work predominantly with adults. I thought I was leading down the path to working with children which is my training. If we hadn't moved to the Maritimes years ago, my path would have been very different.

Most of the time, my "light" glows brighter after I spend time on the road visiting clients. I gain energy from them as much as they gain energy from me. But, when it dims......... I go to the beach!

I also find that my Sundays almost always reenergize me....putting around my house, listening to the radio or to my music, watching a ballgame, hanging with my family, writing.........and cooking up a storm in the kitchen......just the normal everyday things recharge my batteries.

Listening is always will be. Listening is interpreted as recognition and respect, don't you think?

The other part of it? Learning when to show a person how to fish on their own and when to provide the sustenance.

Thanks for you comments.

Feisty said...

Through my mentor I have had the opportunity to meet many people who have come upon hard times; mostly young mothers. Lots who have left home because of an alcoholic mother or an abusive father. There has never been a time where I was not impressed by their presence, their passion, their commitment to making things better for themselves and their child or children. My mentor has helped many of these moms get a glimpse of the streetlight. I can only hope to give back just a bit of the light they have shared with me.

awareness said...

Welcome Feisty! Great name.

One of my favourite "chapel" songs is "This Little Light of Mine....."
It's a bouncy tune of hope and understanding of how we can make someone else's life a bit better....and they ours.

Thank you for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

A truly relaxing little prose. Thank you. You're writing is emotion-filled and fluent. All I can do is sit content with my early morning coffee.