13 May 2008

D: Up From the Ashes

I have a man on my caseload who has, quite literally, been searching for work for almost two years. He's made mistakes in his past that have adversely altered his present and future, and he's a recovering alcoholic, who has been sober for over a year.

Around February, he became my client. At our first meeting, when I said to him that he seemed agitated, could I help in any way? He said to me something to the effect that he'd been looking for work for years, that I was probably one more person he'd see for a few months, and that he was tired. Tired of trying, tired of not drinking, tired of begging.

To which I said, "I'm sorry. I wish I could change those things for you, but I can't".

To which he replied, "No shit".

He had me at hello.

About two weeks ago, I wrangled my foot through a front door that appeared closed and landed an appointment with the right person. After he complimented me on having the nerve to schedule an appointment under, lets just call it "vague" pretenses, he listened as I pitched D's case.

"He just needs a break".

I refused to let my eyes waiver from his. Ultimately, he handed me a sample test and told me to come back in a week with D.

On Thursday, D and I entered the building. D was terrified; certain he'd fail, certain this was just one more rejection in the making. Certain this was one more item that he'd put in the "reasons I should drink" portion of the list that he kept in his head. Except he sailed through the test. And the interview.

When Mr. X asked him how the hours of 7:30-3:30 sounded, D hesitantly said they sounded great. Then Mr. X told him that his benefits would begin after 90 days, and that he'd see him the following week.

D and I left the building and headed to my car.

"You doing OK, D"? I asked.


I got in, jotted a couple of notes and then rolled down my window to let D know that the door was open and he could get in.

"I just need a couple of minutes," he choked out. I was jolted by the tears streaming down his face.

When he got into the car, he apologized for crying, told me how embarrassed he was, how I must be thinking he was crazy or drunk.

I assured him that I didn't think any of those things and congratulated him on his job.

"I can't believe you got me this job," he said.

I reminded him that I didn't get it for him; that he got it for himself, that he was a person truly deserving of a new start and chance, and that he finally got those things.

"I just can't figure it out", he said.

"Figure out what"?

"What the hell you're doing in this job. You should be doing something way different, not driving around people like me who completely fucked up their lives and are out begging for help."

"We're all doing that in some aspect, D, I think. It just isn't as apparent with some of us."

"Well, you changed my life today, you know. Completely changed it. And I feel bad for thinking the things that I thought about you when I met you." He choked back a sob. "I feel really, really bad."

I smiled, only imaging what he could have thought. Who could blame him? Who wouldn't get exhausted and jaded, being bounced around in a system where red tape often seems to dangle what you want and need the most just out of your reach, where there is an infinite number of hoops to jump through, each a little more challenging than the next.

"Don't feel bad, D. You were probably mostly right about me anyway."

He laughed and wiped his tears.

"You should drop me at the bus stop. You shouldn't be driving me home, where I live. It's not exactly the best area, if you know what I mean."

"I'll hold my own", I smirked a little, wondering what he'd have thought had he seen me the day I pounded on a clients door in a far worse area of town because she didn't show for our meeting (AGAIN). I'd gotten a hold of her mother (pesky little "emergency contact" part of her sample employment application) who'd told me she knew she was home, waiting for the cable guy to come and hook her cable up.

The look on her face when she swung the door open and saw me standing there was priceless. That would be a good MasterCard commercial. But I digress.

"I just don't want anything happening to you, you're like the one good thing in my life."

It was my turn to cry. "Thank you, D. That's probably the nicest thing anyone has said to me in quite a while."

"Well, look at us, two grown adults, sitting here crying in your car. What, are we in some fucking chick flick or something?"

And we both started laughing, each of our eyes peering out the windshield into the sun, each of us seeing, despite our very different views, for maybe just one second, the exact same thing.


ALM said...

Amazing. Thanks so much for sharing that story.

NotAMeanGirl said...

I envy you your job. You touch so many and make such a difference to those in need. It makes me want to do the same. :) Thanks.

Blog Antagonist said...

I wish I could find a way to matter. But It's great to know there are people like you out there mattering. You go, girl.

justabeachkat said...

I love your heart!

And the way you use your words to convey what's in your heart. You are a joy to read.

Hugs sweet friend!

Jennifer said...

Oh, my heart.

slouching mom said...

you do good work, jenn. such good work.

Andrea said...

Oh yay! The victories are always so sweet.

And now, D has two good things in his life. A friend in you and a JOB! Kick ass!

amanda said...

It is moments like that that erase the bad times :) How gratifying for you...

flutter said...

just love you

Chaotic Joy said...

Awesome post Jenn. Just beautiful. Good for you. Good for him. Well, just...good.

luckyzmom said...

You have the incredible ability to turn, what could be a simple narrative, into something beautiful that makes me weep.

jeanie said...

Oh hooray - I really really hope he does well at it, and I hate the fact that I probably pile in with the "everybody else" including himself group who has reservations - may he blow all of our reservations out of the water.

And lol to the chick flick line!!

Ally said...

Loved LOVED this post. The amazing work that you're doing, D's tears, a life changed and new beginnings. Wow.

jen said...

oh sister. you. this is what it's all about. this human connection, this reaching out.

hermitgirl said...

That is beautiful. You and D aren't the only ones who cried.

painted maypole said...

oh jenn. it's good work you're doing, good work.

MP said...

Thanks for sharing..I love your work stories..work/life stories.

I think the people you touch at work are lucky that you care..

Amy Y said...

This was such a lovely story, Mama. Thanks for sharing! And good luck to D... I think he's goign to be experiencing an upward trend :)

Janet said...

To you, and that other jen, who reaches out and helps people every day: thank you.

Heidi said...

Wow! What is it like to know that you've made a difference in the world?
Good for you, good for the people who you touch!

Bon said...

wow, Jenn. this captures one of those human moments where people actually connect...

i hope it goes well for him. i hope it goes well for you.

Jonas said...

Can there be a greater compliment than "You changed my life"? I think not.

Yer a gem, Jenn.

Jacquie said...

WTG D!!! Thanks for sharing his story. You are a great woman

Christine said...

god lady, you are amazing.

Dirty Dancing Through LIFE said...

on those days when you don't feel good enough, when you wonder what it is your life is meant to do, go back to this post, go to the post when you gush about the queens go to the posts where you feel like in one day you changed a piece of the world. Just reading your blog I see all this on a regular basis. Its just easy for us to turn the page and forget our strong points when our faults haunt us. You are amazing and I am thankful I read your blog on a reguarl basis.