“My answer to your question starts with, I want to help others.”
The question asked is some version of, “What do you want to do?” Every person who has ever entered the fields of Health, Social Services and Emergency Medical Services just to name a few, has at some point been asked this question and replied with the above. Most of us asked ourselves that question long before anyone else directed at us. We are helpers.
There’s so much reward in what we do and if we’re smart, we never lose sight of the special place we’ve landed in our society. We are the fortunate ones, although many outside of our professions don’t entirely understand why we do it. Many of our friends, many of the people on the receiving end of our help don’t get it either. We often hear, “I’m glad you like what you do. I know I couldn’t do it.” That’s okay; you be the best you can be at what you do, we’ll do the same.
And you know for the most part we do; try our best that is. We hope every day that our best is consistently excellent. We admit though, sometimes the best you get from us isn’t the best you’d have received the day before, two days from now or even an hour ago. In that moment that brings us together, we’re still giving you the best we can muster.
That might not at first glance make a whole lot of sense, so let me explain. Our jobs you see bring us up close and personal with people in some pretty traumatic circumstances. We may have started our shift physically and mentally ready to go but prior to your contacting us, we just finished up with someone you know nothing about. That interaction has affected us in some profound way. Right now, we look our normal best on the outside, but in our heads and our hearts, we’re grieving at the worst and still processing at the best. It’s a double-edged sword this job of ours; we often meet people at the worst periods in their lives, and we do so joyfully – but it’s the humanity in us, the caring in us, that strong desire to help our fellow beings that sometimes has us distracted when serving you, because you were next.
So what it looks like while we still try to do our best might be a lack of focus. You know, repeating a question we just asked. Or we might seem on autopilot, just going through the motions and not all that helpful. That personal service we pride ourselves on just isn’t there at this moment and as one of those we serve, you’re smart enough to recognize you’re getting inferior service.
Now we know you don’t really care about the last person before you – not in the sense that you have zero empathy for them, but in the sense of it’s you before us here and now and you want 100% of our attention. Right now it’s all about you and you’re right, it should be. Like I say however, we’re human. The very best of us has a day here and there where something or rather someone has had an impact on us in such a profound way that we’re struggling to keep that concealed as best we can while we help you. How do we do that? Right…autopilot. At first we think we can pull it off and you’ll never know what’s going on in our head; we’re disconnected at the moment here in the present while our head is still in the past.
The thing is, we’ve been doing this job a long time. You’d think by now we’d be immune to anything that would set us back. We’ve cut our teeth on some bad situations that as a rookie we hadn’t dealt with before. We got stronger for those experiences and by now, you’d think having seen it all, we’re capable of putting that aside and just giving you the very best you’d get any day. You might even demand it, saying, “I’ve got my rights you know. Just do your job; that’s what you get paid to do right?”
The thing is though, we’re sometimes still caught in the moment; profoundly affected by a sorrowful story, a tragic event, a death or suicide, a victim’s retelling of their personal horror. It’s strangely good though. It is precisely because we are so touched at our core by these moments that we are reminded that even after all these years, we’re still in the right place and the right people to be here. The depth of the event and the magnitude to how we are touched mirrors the length of time it’s going to take us to get back.
And here’s the thing…we’re never going to be exactly who we were before. Nope, never. Why? Because this one event; just one of many, has added to who we are moving forward. We are the sum of all our experiences. In changing, we’re actually going to be better if you can believe it. Having shared your story or some tragedy in our personal lives, we now carry these as we evolve and grow. These allow us to channel our empathy – even though you may unknowingly trigger hurtful memories in us – your collective interactions make us better.
We do our best and we sincerely hope on your day – this day – it’s good enough.