I have been working lately with an organization that serves the homeless population by first finding them a place to live and then attending to their many needs. As with many non-profit enterprises these days, they have their share of frustrations that can tip staff morale down a notch or three: lack of adequate funding, coping with the whims and delays of government funding arms, attracting and keeping good front line people who work effectively with their destitute clients, and so forth.
Recently a client of theirs who had been ailing and in declining health passed away. A couple of the managers stayed with him in a death vigil that ended in the early hours of the morning. The community based team responsible for this client had been his surrogate family. It was a special privilege, a manager said, to be present, supporting him at the moment he passed on.
The following morning the team met for awhile to work through their feelings in what was a grieving session…like any family would need to do following the death of a loved one.
What struck me was something one of the managers told me. “Going through this experience reminded us of how vital is the service we provide. Remembering a moment like this helps us put up with all the daily struggles we encounter doing this work.”
A few years back I wrote an article called “Raise Your Gaze.” It’s message was, when the work gets tough or you find your motivation flagging, look up from the numbing details of your daily job and think of the people you serve and why what you do is important.
You may not have the opportunity to experience the deep emotional impact of easing one of your clients out of this world, but you certainly can get back in touch with the mission of the work you have chosen, no matter how menial and ordinary your job may seem to you.
© 2010, Ian Cook. All rights reserved.