Friday, October 30, 2009
Interesting photos huh? You wonder, perhaps, what are they of? They are pictures of, over two decades of "stuff" I have collected that represents my life's work - a ministry of sorts - as my work is a calling to serve - a life of honoring humanity - work that served the vulnerable and needy, broken, wounded, addicted - often helpless - yet hopeful people whose lives crossed with mine - miraculously crossed with mine.
My degrees and certifications were framed, my books lined shelves - everything from Miss Piggy's Guide To Life to The Courage To heal, folders of carefully chosen inspirational writings and poems, props for groups like the "Golden Key" which when passed around each person would share about what this golden key' would open were it to be magical, my little 'box of miracles' and box of quotes' and when passed around the group members would pick a random miracle or quote card and share on what it meant to them, and my basket - oh my basket. - filled with cards and letters from clients and family members of clients who took the time to write to me to say 'thanks'. Each card and note holds such special meaning and humble hope. And I passed this tradition on to one of my most shining and promising interns - now a Master's degree Marriage and Family Therapist - I recall her saying, "the only cards in my basket are the two from you"!! I said, "just wait - your basket will be over flowing soon". Her basket is full - :-) And so I leave much of me in her to continue to serve and respect and honor those in need. In that I find some solace and relief from my own grief of my ministry's end. At least at my place of employment. Another intern of mine, and later hired, was wrongly terminated. She is a powerful resource and advocate for her clients. She has a strong presence, high standards, and fights for what is right only to have her spirit broken by an inhumane system that blames and oppresses. She is rising above and she will soar. I told her the other day that she is a "graduate with honor"!!
The items in those boxes and piles of pictures and my 'peace sign' and my welcome sign that my intern Sophie made for me that said ""A peaceful gathering place' which hung over my door to my office, candles and my radio and cassette player, all served to brighten the lives of so many people who came seeking help - hope - understanding - some left treatment and died - so tragic - most lived - many relapsed - but they kept trying with courage and determination that inspired me. Their lives often wrought with horror, abuse and loss and yet they kept trying. I am not ashamed to say that I cried with people and I laughed with them too. I listened and I never judged - I believed in each and every person that I served. Every single one!
This is not easy to let go of. I am quite sad today. An era has come to an end. My career is closing down. I am on a per Diem list which means I can be called in to fill in for clinicians that need time off - however, my ability to do so is contingent upon my symptoms and right now my symptoms are such that I cannot work and manage my health. I know I have served well, and have done so for almost a quarter century and for that I am forever filled with gratitude. There are so many mixed emotions as I conclude this active ministry - I don't have any regrets - except, well, except that at times I, for the greater good, or so it seemed, allowed a cold inhumane management to 'win'. My thinking being that if I resist too much I will be terminated and then I wont be able to serve. I am amazed at how much I tolerated and I regret that I did. It was always a 'toss up'. And obviously a far more complicated situation than this one statement could ever convey. I saw spirits die and lives destroyed, blame inaccurately placed and hearts broken - - I gathered with co-workers and wrote letters for change. We stood by one another when one of us was delivered an unnecessary blow - we all took so many hits. We provided space and time and support for one another to be heard so we could get back on the front line and serve, advocate, be the voice of those silenced by disease, brokenness, social status and despair - I have been privileged to work next to truly honorable, respectful, caring, and life-giving people in my 20+ years in human services - and some not so life-giving as well. Miss-use of power is ramped and I fought against it my entire career. And I say that with much pride.
And so the boxes are here - twenty five years of stuff, precious stuff - with meaning and purpose - all carted upstairs by three of my closest friends and past co-workers. I am going to sort through it all and hang some things and store some things and maybe even throw away some things. It is hard right now to look at the array of boxes and strewn "stuff" that represents a whole career - so I picked through my basket of cards and notes and chose one randomly because whatever it says, I know, will capture a quarter century of service:
A young woman writes-
thanks for teaching me to appreciate the beauty of individual freedom-even for someone like me who always believed I had none - and you gave me an opening so that I can see other perceptions beyond my own.
that is one example of hundreds of cards and letters - all of which give testimony, witness to my humble service - that I was given the chance to "be" so others could find their own hope, healing, recovery and self - love. As I move on and I realize that the lives closest to me that I will continue to serve and be served by, all of my blog-friends included, that I am open to and being given endless opportunity to love and be loved - give, and be given to, share and listen, and continue to "be". And as I let myself surrender I know, that as much as this all seems so different, it is really all quite the same. So I will grieve as I have a right to do - and I will move on to the new place my life has taken me - still with love in my heart - my truths as my proof that I have lived and survived, my calling to serve is all around me. My core both within me and in our home is solid and life-giving and true - I am still being called....
Posted by Gail at 10:04 AM