Have you heard of that saying, “Maybe your purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others.”? On the internet it’s usually accompanied by a person failing at something so badly that it’s meant to be funny. However what if you know someone in real life, not vicariously, and that’s what their life could actually be?
Let me tell you about Dave (not his real name). Dave comes in to the Employment Resource Centre where I work about 4 days a week. I’ve been at the Centre for over 6 years now, and before that, Dave was one of my clients during the 4 years I was a Social Services Caseworker. So he’s been receiving this financial help for over 10 years. When I first met him, he seemed more motivated, said the right things when asked about what he was doing, and he had some dreams of full-time employment.
Today, Dave works p.t. as an Usher in the entertainment industry with a local business, working whenever there’s a hockey game or a concert. It’s uncertain work, and he combines this with volunteering with two local organizations. It would appear that over the 10 year period, he’s got himself a job and some connection to feel useful and give back to the community, and for all of this he should be commended.
The problem however, is that he’s rested far too long on these small achievements. Living in subsidized housing, he will tell you one day that he’s set for life and why would he want to move because of the rent? Other days, he’ll complain about the recurring bed bug problem. His problem with alcohol is better under control but it’s cost him his career, his marriage, strained his relationship with his adult daughter, and it’s a life-long battle.
Dave will show off his big vocabulary one day like yesterday; asking me if I know how to spell “Ecclesiastics”. Oh he doesn’t need to actually know, and he could look it up on the internet, but it’s his way of saying, “I need some socialization and I’ve got nothing to do, so I guess I’ll talk with you for a bit”. The thing is, he’ll just hover around until you say, “So what’s up Dave?” Now it’s not that he’s getting in the way of the work we do here, because serving others is what we do in the Centre.
Dave recently applied for and received Disability Assistance, meaning that he gets additional financial support, and no longer has to engage in schooling, job search, education etc. but can if he likes. Dave actually wants to update one of his certifications, which will be free and takes half a day.
The saddest thing about Dave is that he’s lost so much drive and personal motivation, that he’s lost his hopes, lost his dreams, lost his purpose. Some days his biggest purpose is to just get through the day. Other days, he volunteers, meets his daughter for lunch, has an evening concert to work etc. So he’s got some drive, some purpose, but he’s plateaued.
When he arrives, we can all tell within the first minute if Dave is going to be sarcastic and is looking to engage in some verbal sparring, or he’s depressed, or he’s on a good day and can be quite positive and full of purpose with a goal for the day.
So why is he a warning to others in ways? Well the longer you remain on Social Assistance of any kind, the more comfortable you may get with the lifestyle that comes with it. Instead of having the drive to change and improve, the ‘new normal’ starts to look appealing. Your friends soon become other recipients, your dreams for the future start getting harder to remember and seem further out of reach. The people in your life tend to be professionals from Social Services. Your daily goals might be to walk around until the food bank opens, find somebody to exchange the stuff you don’t want for things they don’t want but you do. You may find too that the days in the week don’t really matter anymore and weekends and weekdays are pretty much the same; the only days that matter are rent-due days, and the day you get your Social Assistance.
Dave told me yesterday he’s lost hope. At 58 he figures he’s 7 years away from a meager old-age pension. He’s talked about suicide in the past and we’ve had to call in the police to ensure he goes to get help to get through the roughest patches.
If you find yourself in need of assistance, take advantage of it and the financial benefits that come with it by all means; that’s what it’s there for. However, do your very best to try to stay self-motivated too. I’ve glossed over many things, including all the efforts I and others have taken to intervene and provide hope and encouragement – and those efforts are considerable. The one thing that no one can give another however is SELF-motivation. The hardest person to help is the person whose given up. Believing in another person is incredibly powerful, but it does have its limitations. REACH OUT.