Over the past few years, I've seen a lot of turnover in this line of work. Perhaps this is because new supporters idealize the experience, expecting Kodak moments and profound breakthroughs. Maybe they believe that doing this will make them a better person - not realizing the challenges involved. Not that these things aren't true or don't happen, but I believe that you have to be very clear with yourself as to why you do what you do - and have expectations not of results, but of your own ability to rise to the occasion, no matter the situation.
I first became a supporter in September of '06, when it was just Creative Support and Lifeworks. There were other jobs I could have been doing. I've done the restaurant thing, worked in retail, and had other unique positions that make for some great stories, but nothing so far has given me the opportunity to make a direct impact or positively influence another person's life - and therefore the world. This is the only position I've had that addressed a very legitimate, human need. No other group of people has such a blend of unique & misunderstood challenges to dreams that are so tantalizingly within reach. Every day with them is an adventure, a challenge; an opportunity to see the world in a new way. The invisible walls (or chasms) that our clients face every day are just as real and daunting as any obstacle we face - though sometimes harder to imagine. Many times, the obstacle they face may have nothing to do with their disability, but with painful memories that surface when different situations arise. Some of the stories I've heard are heart wrenching. The more I learn about the kinds of storms my clients have weathered, the more I begin to look at them almost like war veterans!
I have almost earned veteran status myself, now entering my fourth year with pretty much the same clients that I've had from the beginning. My tools of survival have been of course compassion, empathy, p a t i e n c e, and a healthy sense of humor. There are no ordinary moments - even if you're dealing with something that you've dealt with a thousand times. You may wear many hats while on the job: Counselor, Cook, Coach, Housekeeper, Entertainer, Wingman, Physical Therapist, Nurse, Taxi, Nutritional Advisor, Cheerleader, Fashion Consultant, Pharmacist, Social Etiquette Supervisor, Bodyguard, Financial Advisor, Referee, Voice of Reason, Confidant. When people ask me what I do, I tell them: Everything!
... Not really, but that seemed like a good note to end on.