Sunday, July 12, 2015

I Don't Want to Help People

Confession: I don't really want to help people. That's not my mission or life goal.

I want to be in a position where I can be part of the celebration of people.
At my old job, we had these called "hope stories". At the beginning of every formal/informal meeting, someone shared a hope story and we had to constantly send them in. And for whatever reason, I hated them. I like hope, I like stories, yet I hated these hope stories. As I thought more, I realized it's because they weren't told in a way that highlighted the strength of the persons who came, but rather said, "look at this broken person who came to us and we helped them". All the hope stories did was elevate us as better than those who came to us for help. And that's when I started to realize I didn't want to help people in the normal sense of the phrase.

I'm not a social worker to help people. I'm not doing my job to help people. I'm here because I believe in people. I believe in the strength and resiliency and dignity of people. I can "help" people in realizing that. But the individuals I work with help themselves. Below is one of my favorite posters. All I'm doing is handing out sticks. My job is to know the people I work with and hand them sticks, provide resources. They're doing all the hard work. People don't usually need help. They need someone to care and give them a stick.

When  I was in grad school, I was conflicted because I did believe in the phrase pull yourself up by your bootstraps, yet it seemed like my new role was to believe the opposite of that and I struggled with that cognitive dissonance. I had to figure out how to meld the two viewpoints together. And while I still believe in that phrase, I also believe that there are so many other steps before that and that's where my role is. 

Before you can "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" you have to know/have the following things:
  1. What bootstraps are
  2. How to use bootstraps
  3. Have boots on
  4. Know that you have boots
  5. Find/buy your boots if you don't have them
  6. Use your boots and move once you've "pulled yourself up"
With some individuals, they need support with all 6. Some just 1-2 of them. And that's my role. To identify which one(s) they need. Or maybe they just want to go barefoot or with another pair of footwear and figure out how we're going to do that.

It's not about me. It's about them. I don't think people need help. I think people need to know someone cares about them, believes in them, unconditionally supports them, advocates for them, is willing to meet them where they are at and sit in the discomfort, and cares enough to not let them stay where they are.

That's what I believe is my role and that's how I do my job.