Presenting To Colleagues On Training Day


Yesterday found me presenting with 4 fellow employees at day 1 of our organization’s annual 2 day professional development training. We’re back there again later today delivering the last of our two workshops to the staff who remained behind to deliver services to the public.

Let me say up front it was a huge success. I love it when the topic selected, the planning and the delivery all come together to make the opportunity for learning the best it can be. The only thing that one can’t control is the mood and attitude of those attending; even though you can influence them one way or the other with your delivery and content based on how relevant and useful they view the material covered.

Now I like facilitating; I mean I truly enjoy it and love investing myself in the delivery because I know how important it is to stimulate and entertain the audience so the presentation has some life. Ever been to a presentation where the material was fantastic and relevant but the speaker(s) were so dry and lifeless that you had a hard time concentrating? I know I have! So injecting humour, varying the pitch of my voice, addressing everyone with my eyes throughout our time together is something that comes natural to me. In short, I’m comfortable up there, and that level of comfort translates into the audience feeling that they are in good hands.

But not everybody enjoys standing up in front of an audience. The idea of getting up in front of a room of people who are looking to you for leadership, delivery of content with enthusiasm and expertise is absolutely scary for some and for others downright terrifying!

So I have to tell you then how proud I am of my co-facilitating team. We are part of a large municipal organization with 5 offices spread across a large geographic area just east of Toronto. In addition to myself, I had the pleasure of working with 4 others including 3 Social Services Caseworkers and the 4th is a woman who recently moved from her role as a Caseworker to an Employment Development Worker. None of the three facilitate as part of their job.

This is significant to tell you see, because in addition to getting together to talk about what we’d present and how, it meant we’d also need time to talk about presenting period. You know, getting over any performance anxiety, the butterflies and pressure your mind imagines. Standing up in the front of a room of strangers is one thing; standing up in front of your peers, many of whom have significant experience beyond your own can be daunting. After all, you’ll go back to working with these same people long after the two days are over, so you can feel tremendous pressure to excel so you don’t look foolish or just melt away up there in front of them!

Like I said earlier though, it was a huge success. We had a diversified audience too, made up of Supervisors, Administrative Clerks, Caseworkers, Employment Development Workers and Employment Counsellors; a true mixed audience. Some of the people in these roles don’t interact with our end-users in-person. Knowing this, we anticipated the need to make our material relevant not only to the professional life of each attendee, but also in their personal lives. The material could be transferred to their own development, identifying and moving past barriers standing between them and their goals. We also talked briefly about the what some see as the dreaded resume; best practices, getting past Applicant Tracking Software that employers use to weed out the bad from the good. All completely appropriate for the work we do on a daily basis, but also good for each participant individually; perhaps their kids, family or friends too.

It was this design borne out of the discussions we had at the outset, knowing our audience and the perspective they’d be coming from when in attendance that gave us the best chance of success. It was the actual delivery on the day which sealed the deal. Having been to many presentations, I know that the first 5 minutes generally tells me whether I’m in for a good time or not.

My colleagues Meaghan, Laurie, Amy and Julie truly pushed themselves outside their traditional comfort zones. They took the courage to volunteer and speak to a piece of the presentation, standing up before their peers and delivering. What a great bunch to work with. I’m so very proud of them all.

As for our attendees? It was extremely satisfying in both our presentations yesterday to have a few people voice their happiness with the material. One person actually texted her son on the other side of the country who is out of work at the moment with the information on resumes she picked up, and he got back to her and said, “Wow! I didn’t know that about resumes. Thanks mom!” So not only was it immediately relevant to the Caseworker, it helped her as a mother – and we all know our adult kids don’t always think we know much!

In one of the presentations, a Supervisor remarked she was going to make sure this material was covered as core training material for all new staff. So kind of her to share her feelings! It meant so much for us to know our material was relevant and appreciated.

To my presentation team, well done!

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Thanks For The Social Services Caseworker


If you’re fortunate to live in a community that provides financial and social assistance to its most vulnerable citizens, then you’ve also got a number of people tasked with providing that same service. These people may have varying titles, but for the purposes of identification, let’s call them Caseworkers. More about that name later, but for now, Caseworkers it is.

It may well be that your own upbringing never brought you into contact with any Social Service organization; you may have no personal contact with or real understanding of the role these people play. This would mean you’ve been raised in a self-supporting family and never required the support the social services safety net provides. From an economic point of view, the fewer people who turn to these supports the better; the resources are more readily available for those who truly need them, for those unable to financially support themselves.

Administering these benefits are the Caseworkers; working within and under the legislative guidelines set out by governments. But if you leave it at that, you’ve got a very limited view of what a Caseworker does. Caseworkers you see, are in the people business. This is a role of privilege and responsibility; one that most Caseworkers carry out with gratitude for the opportunity. It may not have occurred to you should you outside the field, but the people who work in these roles are a special bunch.

You see as much as we know the role is a privilege, it’s disheartening to hear that same word used in a derogatory way when people say, “Oh those government workers are a privileged bunch!” A government worker is a public servant, and serve we do.

The Caseworker is tasked with ensuring that people initially meet the established standards in qualifying for financial help, and then ensuring each month that they continue to do so. While the number of people and families served by any one person varies, it would not be atypical for a Caseworker to have 175 files representing some 325 people at any given time. That’s a lot of people to serve on a monthly basis! Given each day the Caseworker might see 3 or 4 in-person for an update, talk on the phone to 15 – 20, respond to letters and faxes and the odd person who drops in unannounced, there’s a need to be highly organized, efficient and time-management conscious. Now add in some ongoing training, team meetings, breaks and a lunch and suddenly you get an idea of how their day goes. You might understand how frustrating it is then to have people then complain to the Caseworker, “You never pick up the phone when I call. What are you doing all day?”

The job also comes with expectations from top down too. There are Supervisors monitoring caseload management, doing random file reviews, following up on client contact with Caseworkers, reports that tell how on top of things a Caseworker is, the various benefits each Caseworker has issued, where they might have some updates overdue. Then the legislation that dictates how the job is done changes periodically, and more training is scheduled. Every so often the technology itself is overhauled and like it or not, there’s another entire computer software system to learn.

And you know what? Caseworkers didn’t choose to get into the job to do any of the above. What they did sign up for when they went to University or College was to help people. What they envisioned was sitting down, listening to people express their challenges and then providing support and encouragement; helping people help themselves. With this job there’s an unexpected emotional toll too. The Caseworker hears and feels the worse in human nature; rape, abuse, drug and alcohol addictions, zero financial literacy, loss of self-esteem, growing anxieties and depression, shame, guilt and yes despair. Caseworkers have to both steel themselves against taking on the suffering heard yet empathizing enough to fully appreciate the hardships of those served. It’s a fine balance.

Yet, for all the troubles and challenges, administration and tight timelines, the Caseworkers are a positive bunch; some of the most caring and wonderful people you could hope to meet. They are often the first people who come to mind by those on their caseload when there’s trouble; this is the privilege. Caseworkers see the breakthroughs, the changing attitudes, hear the joy of landing job interviews and announcing new jobs! We congratulate those moving to financially supporting themselves because we know just what it’s taken for many to make it.

Like any field, sure there will be some employees who are better at the job than others. You may hear someone complain about their own Caseworker but that doesn’t mean you’re getting the objective story. Besides, go ahead and name any job where every single person who holds it is identically excellent in every way. You can’t, and Casework is no different.

A big thank you to Caseworkers everywhere; be they anywhere on this planet of ours. While you may not expect or ask to be thanked by those you serve, may you who hold it always be blessed with some who express their sincere and heartfelt thanks for what you do. It might only be a handshake and a nod or maybe you’ll get a personal note to be treasured expressing words of thanks.

Keep up the good work, for even we only get a glimpse of what life is really like for those we serve.

Social Services Provider: Build Trust As Step 1


When you meet with someone for the first time, one of the best things you can do as an initial step is set yourself a goal of establishing trust. Yes you likely have an agenda in mind of assisting this person move from being dependent on Social Assistance or Welfare to financial independence. However, recognize that while this might be the ultimate goal, you’ve got to get at where they are now on that path to the goal; there could well be several steps they need to take before that final achievement.

This is the dilemma facing so many Caseworkers in the Social Services system; with sizable caseloads and seeing people infrequently, how does not take the limited time they have and just rush full speed at the end goal? After all, there’s administrative paperwork to complete that fulfills legislative requirements to be done which also restricts the time available to discuss employment. Given the meeting might be an hour maximum, there’s not much time to do what needs doing.

One of your first goals should be to find out what’s going on from the person themselves. You can’t do this well if you’re the one doing most of the talking, and you can’t do it at all if you’ve got this preconceived plan on what you’ll talk about and what you’ll get done. My suggestion is in setting up the meeting, invite the person to come ready to initially talk about whatever is on their mind. What would they like to talk about or ask? Even when you’re the one requesting the meeting, you can start by turning away from your computer monitor, giving them your full attention and asking.

When you immediately shift the focus to what they want to talk about, what’s important to them in that moment, you might surprise them. After all, they may be more accustomed to having past meetings driven entirely by the Caseworkers they’ve previously met with. While they might be expecting to sign some papers, talk about their job search and do it all only to remain eligible to get financial help, they really might not think you care to hear what’s going on. In fact, they could be quite suspicious; unsure if they could trust you enough to tell you their truths for fear of having their money put on hold.

Ask yourself this however; isn’t it preferable that you find out what barriers this person is really experiencing that are preventing them from focusing on their job search? As many of us know, there’s often multiple things going on. In addition to diminished self-esteem and a lack of confidence, the person might have a poor landlord their dealing with, no funds to keep their phone activated, issues of isolation from family, past or present abuse and of course transportation problems. Expecting such a person to, ‘get serious and get a job’ is going to fall on deaf ears. No that’s not true… they’ll hear that message and tell you what they know you want to hear but not really do what you believe they’ll do – they can’t!

Step 1 really is building trust. Create the climate where the person feels they can share honestly how they feel, what they cope with daily and where their priorities are and you’re on the way to truly helping. Now be cautioned, you’ll need to use your ears more than your mouth and listen to them. When you hear of their struggles and challenges, you could really be helpful by labelling the skills you hear them describe. They might tell you they’ve been emotionally and physically taken advantage of since they were a teenager, they held down a job for 4 years before losing it when they had to move to get away from their abusive partner, and since relocating to their present apartment they haven’t met any friends and their new landlord keeps putting off needed repairs. Maybe what you hear is resiliency and courage.

Resist the urge to fix the problems right away. Have you heard this before? There’s a good reason for this advice. So often in the role of Helpers we start thinking of the solutions while the person is still sharing their problems. We want to fix what’s wrong; just as we would if we were parents hearing our children tell us their struggles. But you’re not a parent in this case. You risk losing the opportunity to forge a true connection if you rush to solve the problems you hear. You also reinforce their dependency on others to solve their problems instead of letting them arrive at the solutions themselves and reinforcing their belief in their own abilities to do so in the future.

Now I don’t suggest you hold back on sharing possible solutions. Sure, share your resources and places to get the help they could use. As for a job, sure it might be their goal. However, to get AND KEEP a good job, they may need to discuss some things first that increase their chances of long-term success. Giving them the green light to focus on other things and have your support might be the best thing you can do for this person at this moment and remove the job search need entirely for a period.

This is their life journey. You and I? We’re just some of the good people they meet along the way who are privileged to be included.

 

The Importance Of Shifting The Agenda


I was really looking forward to our one-on-one resume appointment; after all, she’d been smiling and engaged all through the group presentation just a few days before. Adding to that positive first impression, she’d called ahead to advise me of a slight conflict with another appointment and respectfully asked to make a small change in our appointment time. (This kind of respect for other people’s schedules goes a long way). Finally, she’d also mentioned that she had, on her own, taken efforts to use the ideas I’d shared with the group; full marks on initiative and personal accountability!

So as I say, I was really looking forward to our meeting.

It started off well enough as she was on time, nicely dressed and there of course was the nice smile I’d remembered. As requested, she’d come prepared with a job she was interested in applying for too; a part-time Receptionist position with a local funeral home as it turned out. While she didn’t have a résumé and we were starting from scratch, she had obviously put pen to paper and with this data, it would be quicker to take what she’d put down and re-work and re-word things to fit the posting.

Ah, this was going to be a nice time together…probably just an hour I’d imagined.

After we had reviewed the job requirements from the posting, highlighting each one to make sure we’d note these somewhere on the résumé, I remarked that her last employment was some 7 years ago. “Why the gap?” I wondered to myself; so I asked.

“I took time off to start and raise a family…and I got a divorce.” Everything had been normal until she mentioned the word, ‘divorce’. In a seconds she was fighting for tears, looking expectedly around for a tissue, and not seeing the box behind her, was wiping away the tears from her eyes and apologizing profusely.

Instantly I realized the résumé could and would have to wait. This kind of thing happens more often than people might think. Years of working with people have taught me a number of things, and one is that for someone to break down so quickly at the mere mention of divorce suggested to me it was fresh, the rawness still very new, and yes, there was the distinct possibility she’d been on the receiving end of some kind of abuse.

As it turned out, it was a case of past abuse, for when asked if she had someone she might talk to about her experience, she mentioned she was seeing a Counsellor provided through a local women’s shelter. The mere mention of the shelter told me enough, as I wasn’t the right person nor was this the right time to have a counselling session. Still, it costs nothing to give someone your full attention and pause, assuring them that its okay to express their feelings.

I wondered if this woman was ready to work. I mean, it’s extremely probable that she’s going to be asked about the 7 year employment gap on her résumé in an interview, and would she share to them what she shared with me, and would this repeat itself anew?

When I very gently asked if she was ready to work, she said that she had original been thinking about volunteering to get going again, but the part-time job appealed to her as she hoped it would be through the day so she could still take care of and see her 3 children. “How silly of me though! I think I should just forget the job and look at volunteering somewhere.”

This could be a classic response of someone who was told things like, “No one will ever hire you” or, “You’ll never make it without me” etc., so it was really important to point out a couple of things to boost her fragile self-esteem. First of all, she was still sitting with me and wanted to do a résumé, which while she had broken down, she hadn’t gathered up  her things and bolted for the door. So it was important to her. Secondly, she had the skills required for the posting; and if granted an interview, she’d feel good knowing the résumé worked. If she got a job through the interview, it would bring added stress – but good stress, and if she didn’t get the job, she’d be no worse off for the experience.

Well we finished that resume together, and near the end, I again pointed out some positives. The smile was back on the face for the world to see, and she genuinely liked how we had marketed herself on the résumé which made her happy.

When you work with people in this field, it’s key to remember that the agenda you have all nicely laid out shouldn’t be so rigid that its importance outweighs the people sitting before you. While not a formal counselling session, this had been more than a résumé appointment.

This interaction highlights the difference between working solely with a résumé expert and a resume expert who works in the context of serving people first and foremost. Total cost for the 1 1/2 hour resume/listening/support/self-esteem repairing session? Zip.

For the record, I share not to get any praise or accolade. I share to highlight and remind us who work with people that establishing and nurturing a trusting relationship will take you places while remaining detached will have you wondering why your resumes don’t turn into jobs.

So You Want To Help People?


The majority of people I come into contact with professionally have as one common denominator, the lack of employment. Those that do have a job are almost always dissatisfied with the one they have at the moment and are looking to find another; one that will ultimately bring they greater happiness, be more of a challenge, stimulate some new skills, increase their financial health etc.

As an Employment Counsellor therefore, I find myself working with others when they are often vulnerable and emotionally fragile. Sometimes the good skills and strengths they have are obscured, not immediately obvious, and this isn’t because the person is consciously trying to hide them, but rather because they have come to doubt those strengths.

In asking someone to both show and share their good qualities, strengths and that which they take pride in, it can be a very intimate discussion. While a person who has only recently become unemployed has much of their confidence and self-awareness intact, someone experiencing prolonged unemployment may feel very little to be proud of. In fact, there are some who, while looking ‘normal’ on the outside, are walking around feeling they are completely devoid of anything of any value. Sad to say, they cannot think of anything whatsoever they like about themselves, they have no faith that anyone would ever choose to hire them, and this isn’t modesty in the extreme, it’s a void of identity.

So imagine you’ve come to find yourself as such a person. You honestly see nothing in yourself that would be attractive to a perspective employer. Skills, mental health, self-confidence, experience, education, attitude all empty and wanting; doubt, lack of self-worth, zero energy, high vulnerability all in great supply. Now you hear others advising you to market yourself to employers, to ‘fake it ’til you make it’, and you just feel so much more out of sorts and incapable. You’re literally incapable and immobile. There’s no way you can do that; you can’t even imagine yourself for a second ever being what your being asked to be. The interview therefore is a non-starter. There’s just no way you can perceive self-marketing yourself and being the first choice of any employer over others.

Let’s not delude ourselves here; helping and supporting such people is no small undertaking and it’s going to take a significant amount of time to aid such a person as they rebuild their self-image. Incapacitated is how they feel, not belligerent nor unwilling, just not physically or mentally capable of doing anything in the beginning to get going.

Can you also imagine therefore in such a picture which I’m trying to create for you, that such a person is going to have many setbacks? Sure they are. There will be many false starts; where they agree to try something you’ve suggested and fail. Where they lack the skills you and I might assume they have to circumnavigate even the simplest of barriers. Good intentions get them going, but without support they fail to move ahead. In fact, small setbacks become magnified in their eyes and thinking; more reasons to feel a failure.

A real danger is to look from the outside at such a person and judge them to be lazy, improperly motivated, unwilling to move ahead, happy to stay where they are and heaven forbid – not worth the effort. These are people who are susceptible to scams, vulnerable to being misled, easily taken advantage of – largely because they have come to look for others to tell them what to do and take care of them, and as such they are often abused financially, emotionally; and each abuse makes their distrust of someone with the best of intentions all the more real.

Wow! Helping such a person seems to get harder and harder with every paragraph I write. Think of the investment of time, effort and with such a high probability of failure, are you up for the challenge? After all, why not turn your attention to helping other people who have higher probabilities of success? That would seem so much easier!

I tell you this; there is immense self-satisfaction in working with people who are so innately vulnerable. Seeing the good in people; not for what they might become but for who they are at the moment – this is often extremely challenging but so worthwhile. It’s like saying, “Until you have the ability to believe in yourself, accept that I see much of value in you; that I believe in you.” Sending that kind of message, that this person is deserving of your attention and your time is something to start with.

You might not of course have what it takes to help such people. This doesn’t make you a bad person or flawed in any way. It just means your wish to help people lies in other areas, helping in other ways with other issues. You’ll make mistakes as you go and that’s to be expected and natural. You’ll make mistakes after years of service too, and you’ll always keep learning from those you work with who are unique from every other person you meet. You’ll never get so good you’re perfect for everybody you meet.

It’s been said that Hope is the last thing one has to lose; that when all Hope is gone, there’s nothing left. Now what if in their eyes, you represent that final Hope?

Fed Up Being Unemployed


Okay let’s start with the premise that you’re fed up. I mean you’ve grown so frustrated with trying to get a meaningful job that pays well that it’s left you confused on how to succeed and bitter. It seems no matter what you tried in the past, no matter who you applied to for a job, in the end the result was the same; you’re not wanted.

Seems to me that hearing the message, “Just keep trying” rings kind of hollow. How many times can you be expected to keep at it hoping for a better result? So you give up. Then after having packed it in you start feeling that it’s worth it to try again. Why? Usually it’s because the life you’ve got at the moment isn’t the one you want for yourself; you deserve better and you’re motivated to try again until you ultimately succeed or you give up once more.

Maybe you’d be open to hearing a few words of encouragement? If so, I’d like to offer you some. I suppose the first thing I’d like to say is that it is a good sign that you aren’t content to keep living the way your are now. That feeling that you want more is the seed of Hope that’s buried deep in your core. ‘Hope’ my dear reader, is at the core of so many people’s thoughts who push off from some known shore for the great journey’s they embark on. Hope is what causes them to leave the safe and known for the uncertainty and yet-to-be discovered.

Now keeping with that image of some adventurer embarking on a journey; the early stages of a journey involve traveling through the norm. The sailor who sets to some unknown land far away first has to get beyond the waters that are well chartered. The hiker deviating from some known path had to first hike what they knew to get to the point where they chose something previously passed up on.

It’s the same with you and your job search. You rely on what you know when it comes to looking for a job until you come across some better way of going about it. This makes absolute sense. However, just like the hiker and the explorer decided at some point to do something they’d never before done, it also stands to reason that you should do something you’ve never done if you expect the results to be more satisfying than you’ve experienced. Going about looking for a meaningful job the way you’ve gone about it in the past is likely to end with similar results; results you don’t want to experience again.

It’s important to realize that you’re not at fault or to blame for going about things the way you are; even if you later realize a number of mistakes you are made. After all, until someone introduces a better way, a more effective way of getting you where you want to be, the only way you’d have succeeded entirely on your own is through trial and error, until you lucked out on whatever works. That seems pretty high risk and could take a long time.

So it seems like you have a choice to make; do things the way you’ve always done them assuming this is how everybody goes about looking for work or, open yourself up to getting help and direction from someone who knows a better way. That ‘better way’ by the way, is likely going to involve some effort on your part in two ways. One, you have to pause long enough to be open to learning the new way and two you have to be willing to give it a shot and carry out what you learn.

Keep something in mind will you? When you’re learning something new you will likely feel the urge to just get going and apply, apply, apply! But throwing your résumé around everywhere hasn’t worked to this point has it? Pausing to learn, being taught something new isn’t  everybody’s idea of a good time. You might be the kind of person that finds sitting down and being taught how to go about looking for work in 2017 is really pushing your limits. Do it anyhow. Seriously; you want a different result don’t you? Sure you do. This is the price you pay for success.

Look you deserve a decent job. You probably aren’t going to end up running some major corporation or discovering the cure for Cancer. That you want to improve your lot in Life however, do something you find personally meaningful and make a future that’s better than the present is commendable. And if I may add, you’re worth it; we all are.

You should seriously think then about reaching out for help. Where to start though? Check in with just about any Social Services organization in your local community. If you’re not in the right place, a few phone calls will likely get you pointed in the right direction. Best news is that the help you need is likely free. Sit down with open ears and a good attitude and do something you haven’t done yet; give yourself over to their expertise. If it works, great. If the chemistry doesn’t work, try someone else.

When you decide to improve things and then act, you’re already becoming the successful person you envision.

 

 

Social Supports Work


If you never need to make use of the services provided in your community for financial assistance, mental health counselling, employment coaching, childcare, subsidized housing etc. congratulations. You’ve been fortunate enough to have your needs met both as a child and into your teens, and once in a position to make decisions about your own destiny, apparently you continue to make good ones.

For many however, the circumstances they were born into differed and the supports they had growing up which shaped their thinking and ability to make knowledgeable, positive decisions just wasn’t in place. When you sit down and listen to people tell their tales and hear first-hand their life stories, you come to appreciate the ongoing struggle that they face on not only a daily basis, but on an hourly basis.

Sometimes I admit that I sit and wonder why someone I’m listening to can’t see the situation as I do. If they’d only do what I’d do in the same situation the problem would soon be resolved; a barrier removed. Yet the choice they decide on is one which I can predict with a high degree of accuracy is not going to resolve the problem whatsoever and may even escalate things, compounding the initial challenge with additional issues. Oh if only everyone were as clever as me!

Of course I’ve become wiser over the years listening to people and taking what they say, massaging the information I receive and returning it back to them to make their own decisions and perhaps build on resolving this one issue so they can work on others. What I’m giving is perspective, an objective opinion, options, talking about foreseeable consequences and resisting the urge to tell people what to do. It’s tempting of course! Better however to ask people in the end what they plan on doing; after all, if they make a good decision it’s theirs to feel good about and if they make a decision that turns out bad, it’s their learning opportunity.

Let’s face it, sometimes, “Life” happens. You know, the things that happen to us all that we couldn’t have predicted but have to respond to in some way. Make no mistake, these things do happen to us all. So why is it then that when unexpected and unpleasant things happen, not all of us respond in healthy, productive ways? In other words, why do some people make better decisions than others when faced with the same events?

It goes back to the 2nd paragraph; right from the time we were born and well into our teens, some of us didn’t get the good parenting, mentoring, leadership, guidance, support, direction, teaching and support that is so crucial to developing the skills needed later in life when we have to make our own decisions. You might think that having such a setback might excuse someone’s poor choices as a youngster but as they move into adulthood the lack of good building blocks early in life can’t be used as excuses any longer.

The reality is that the circumstances in which many adults are in now are directly proportional to the circumstances of their upbringing. A family living in poverty – and I take the liberty of painting with a very broad brush here – has economic restrictions. A lack of financial resources limits opportunities for their children to participate in activities where children can socialize at the same level with other children from affluent or middle-class environments. They fall behind. They get less support in learning basic life skills; money management, goal setting, they find out less about education and employment opportunities which hinge on higher learning.

Now as adults, I admire the sheer resilience many of those receiving social supports have. Somehow through it all there remains for most a desire to improve not only themselves but the lives of their children. They still have hope. They may not use cover letters, those resumes might have spelling and grammatical errors, but they don’t give up or give in. They keep trying. They will only stop trying as it turns out if they keep getting told they can’t, they never will, it’s hopeless, they are a failure. Hear it often enough and they’ll believe it. So why can’t the opposite be equally true?

Hang on second…is that it? Is that a simple starting place? Is the key to surround a person who’s had nothing but poor mentoring and a lack of supports with positive, helpful, inspired and empowering people? How long would it take to see results? Months? Years? Never? I don’t believe it would be never, but it might take a long time. Then again, not everyone has the same problems, the same degree of difficulty nor the same number of issues.

Granted there will be those who despite all efforts will always need social supports and financial aid. While they need supports in place, unfortunately there is an extremely small chance of them becoming self-sufficient. There are also those at the other end who will pull themselves up with or without needing much help as they have the skills. However, in the middle are the vast majority of folks receiving some kind of support and if they get it they progress, and if they don’t they regress.

Want to make a difference? Become a mentor and/or helper or back those who are.