A client came to our office last week with no identification and no place to stay. He lost his job and apartment this past December. Since then, he first stayed at a shelter which is known to be particularly violent and got in a fight there. After that, he stayed at a local drop-in-center overnight for two days, which is set-up like a cafeteria and has no beds, but does thankfully serve food. He then went to another shelter, and his 30-day time limit expired two days before he came to our office.
He came to us because he needed a shelter placement and when he applied earlier in the day, he wasn’t given a denial or callback sheet (so there’s no record of him applying and no concrete requirements for him to meet to be approved). He said if he was placed in the shelter where he had gotten in a fight, he would refuse shelter placement because he is scared to be there.
I helped him meet the documentation requirements for placement and referred him to go apply again today and get something in writing. He came to my office and said they gave him nothing. I called a coworker who was at social services, and she said she would help him if I sent him over. I got some tokens to give him for bus fare to get to a job interview later in the day.
When I sent him to meet up with my coworker, he said, “I really do appreciate all that you’re doing for me. I’m sorry for bothering you.” His eyes were getting watery and I could sense he was very sincere. As I put the tokens in his hand, I said, “Hey. You are not bothering me. Good luck.” He smiled and left my office. Ten minutes later he was placed in a different shelter than the one where he got into a fight. This is fortunate because my office has no control over our clients’ placements unless there is a specific request on file from a doctor.
This interaction with my client led me to think about self-worth. Had he learned that asking for help made him unworthy of others’ time? As Americans, we are taught from a very young age to be independent and prosperous. As Christians, however, we are taught to be interdependent, and this would help us become prosperous. This puts Christian Americans in an interesting spot. The truth is that everyone needs help at some point. It’s humbling, and it reminds us that we are not perfect. And I think that those who are happiest are those who just focus on treating others right rather than being perfect all the time. Interdependence teaches us a different kind of self-worth. No one is better, and everyone has their special God-given gifts.
I try my best to show my clients that we are a team. Though our roles in the world are much different, I want them to know that I am working with them, side-by-side. Unfortunately our world works in a way where I have certain privileges that enable me to do things my client’s can’t. I don’t like that I have it, but at least I can do some good with it.