Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How My Job Has Influenced Some of My Perceptions

I was sitting on the bus today when a gentleman walked by on the aisle and his body odor was really strong. I suspected he was experiencing homelessness. A few people reacted to him. Conversation carried on. I thought for a moment about my own reaction. How has that reaction changed since I started working as a case manager several years ago?

At that time I would've likely reacted with a mixture of sympathy and aversion. I would've maybe thought a bit about where the person came from, his background, how he grew up, but it would've felt quite disattached from myself. After working as a case manager for some time and getting to know people of various hardships, housingwise, physical, mental, fixed (disability benefits) or no income, I was able to appreciate the depth, the story behind a person with these challenges. Through the years I also learned much more about the system, encompassing social reform in US, Medicaid, Medicare, disability, inequality in its various forms, and am still learning more.

I come from a privileged background. I realize what I wrote above may read for this to be the case. I grew up befriending people from different cultures and incomes but led a sheltered life in many ways. I felt the love from my parents and grew up in a stable household. I developed values that, left unchecked, are projected onto clients. I need to remind myself to carefully consider where clients are coming from.

My job hasn't changed some things. While I absolutely believe the system needs work and impending budget cuts (to programs related to health, housing, educational, should I go on?) concern me deeply I too believe in people's capabilities of being involved in some way in their community if they're unable to work*. Or even in doing something positive for themselves, learning their rights and obligations, developing skills to advocate for themselves, teaching other people skills. And on another end of it having a hobby, exercising, taking a class. People need to take ownership of their lives but as a society we do well to support one another (not to mention we don't all start off on equal footing, but that's for another discussion). And I suppose these values I learned from my parents and immediate community.

Yet, considering the magnitude of the impending cuts they do limit people's abilities to take actions that promotes their wellbeing. Severely cutting programs that serve people with low incomes, people with disabilities, and still expecting them to function as well in society does not sound right.

* Unable to work meaning they have a disability for which they receive benefits

No comments: