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.