The tricky thing about my job is that I’m always trying to put myself out of work. Families either need resources, skills, knowledge, or a spotlight – or a combination of the these things – to move themselves from where they are to where they want to be. When they get them, my work is done and I move on. My goal is to get them to that point as efficiently and effectively as I can, keeping in mind that I don’t want them to have to come back again.
Resources can be pretty straightforward. If the only thing that a family needs to function better is a new place to live, or some basic necessities, or to have a regular source of food so they can remove that stress from their lives, it’s simply a matter of connecting them to the people that can give them what they need. Knowledge can be pretty easy too, if people are receptive to hearing it. Skills are a bit trickier sometimes, but ultimately when people catch on it can have amazing results.
But the spotlight. That’s where I get to watch the magic happen from a different perspective. When I say that sometimes people need a “spotlight,” what I am referring to is the type of family that comes into my life because they are having some difficulty, but really all they need is to take the step of paying attention to the issue at hand in order to unravel the mystery of what is standing in their way.
In those situations, my role is simply to provide a time and emotional space for examining this stumbling block, and sometimes to help attenuate all of the noise and static that is clouding their ability to see the issue clearly. Watching people draw on their own skills, knowledge, and resources to creatively resolve their problem is one of the best parts of my job.
The One Fabulous Thing about today is that I got to see this process in action. The key thread was pulled, disintegrating the barrier that had been keeping this particular family from living life the way they would like.
That means that soon, I won’t see this family anymore. They won’t need me. That’s been one of the hardest things to learn about this work: I’m not as important as I think I am. Ten years ago when I got into this, I would have been trying to solve this family’s problems all by myself, offering solutions and plans and interventions for everything they brought to the table, whether it was an important issue or not. It would have been a mess. It has taken time and a lot of frustration on my part (and my clients’ part – if only I could go back to some of them and apologize) to learn that sometimes the best strategy is to just sit back, shut up, and turn on the spotlight.