Tuesday, October 26, 2010

only in social services...

You may or may not know that the Center for Respite Care (where I work in fund development) is physically attached to a nursing home via a large breezeway. We share a parking lot in the back, so we know their staff pretty well, and we get to know their clients too. Well there is one particular nursing home client, who looks exactly like Ziggy Marley, and he is in a wheel chair. He’s a super nice guy – way too young to be in a nursing home. He likes to sit outside, in the back of the nursing home - which is the back of our building (which is a house), so it’s shady and pretty, as it probably was 100 years ago when the house was built. He has long dreads, and he smokes like a chimney – he just hangs out. Enjoys being outside. Every day, I say “good morning!!” in the chipper way that I do, and I wave.

So I drive in this morning with my Starbucks in hand, la di da – typical happy me. But I notice that today, Ziggy Marley is sitting on the sidewalk (next to the parking lot), and his chair is sitting next to him. He is smoking away, and there is an older-ish woman standing next to him talking. I assume they are related, or she is visiting or something like that. I roll down my windows and holler out “good morning guys! It’s a beautiful day!” And I pull into my spot. And I get out all my bags, like I always have. And I grab my Starbucks, and I look over at them again, and I wave – “Have a great day!” And I start walking the opposite direction toward our front door. But I hear something that catches my attention – “yah, it just snapped….” And it occurs to me – hmmm – maybe Ziggy is not sitting on the ground because he wants to be. (now I know what you are thinking… really, Mary Jo?? REALLY???)

I turn around and walk back, and I get all concerned that something is dreadfully wrong with this situation. So I say, "Do you need help? Is something wrong??" And he looks at me kind of funny, and he says, "Um, yah, my chair broke. The wheel just fell off. Just as I was coming down the slope."

Blank stare. Crickets chirp. Then, I chime in with my second classic act of the day, and I say to him, "Oh my god. I have to tell you this. Honestly – I swear – I thought you were out of your chair sitting on the concrete because it’s nice and cool. Umm. You know, because, well, your wheelchair seat is plastic. I thought maybe it was too warm. You know – no air. And I feel like such a jerk, because that’s actually what went through my mind!" (Seriously, Mary Jo?? You said that??)

And Ziggy looks at me dead on for just a couple of seconds, the throws back his head, and he totally cracks up. And I do too! Then he says, "Girl! Thank you for the love! And your honesty!"

And then we both laugh some more. (Well, I am pretty sure he was laughing at me...) And the morning goes on, and the aids next door bring him a new chair. And everything was fine. But I still feel like a total dope, and I told about five people the story – everyone was in tears laughing at me. But I feel good, because I was totally honest with him.

And this is why I love what I do – working in services. It’s all honest and real, not warm and fuzzy like some people like to say. It’s REAL. You just can’t make this stuff up! But stuff like this happens almost every single day. It’s amazing to me to see how people get by, how they cope, as if nothing is wrong at all. And then to deal with someone like me who comes along intending only good, but is sometimes clueless (and often not). And to laugh about it. Life is good.