So yesterday at work I attended my first town hall meeting. These take place a few times a year to keep all the employees up to date on organizational changes. This one I knew I needed to be at because since the beginning of October major things have changed with in the place I work. All of the changes had something to do with the budget. Like a lot of people and places, the economy is still affecting our every day lives. Thankfully I still have a job... for now. Due to state budget cuts that took away 10% of our annual money, leaving us a half a million dollars short on budget. Unfortunately this means that parts of our organization will be closed and some people will lose their jobs. Oddly enough we were given small holiday bonuses just last week, and they are buying a new company vehicle, and having to spend over a thousand dollars worth of supplies for the outreach team. This doesn't appear to make sense to be spending when good people are losing their jobs, their jobs that they have dedicated their time and energy too, I get most people do that, but working with some of the kids they work with is extremely challenging and the people that are really good at it are harder to find. The point is the company has certain money that has to be used on vehicles or they lose that money, a portion of funds that is untouchable unless it is used to help families pay their bills, etc. You get the point. So as hard as 2009 has been on our organization, the C.E.O says next year will only be worse. Not exactly what we wanted to hear. We can look forward to more cuts in February and possibly even more after that. The general tone of the meeting was a total downer and truly I left feeling depressed. And one of my co-workers who I have never even seen in a bad mood said she needed to go home to take a nap. We all just felt drained and in limbo. It's hard to muster up the motivation and pump up the energy when you don't know if you will have a job in a few months. Do I keep working hard to help my clients? Of course. BUT I felt sad thinking of these families that may some day not have a program like ours to turn to. We are the only program of it's kind in our area, the next closest one is three hours away.
I am very aware that working in the social services you may be helping hundreds of people and there is a clear need for your services, but if money is an issue these are the programs that usually get cut first. I could go work in an office and do something I don't care about. Wait, scratch that. I can't. I can not let myself waste away doing something I don't like. Now there are definitely long days and days I can't wait to get home and leave all the stuff at work and yesterday was one of those days. A day of uncertainty. It got me thinking about people who work in the same place for thirty years (obviously I am not one of those people, and lots of times my jobs have ended before I wanted them to due to budget cuts) but that stability must be nice. Knowing that you will have that office in six months, the same amount on the paycheck, the routine. Then again I know it would be nice to pick up and leave all of that behind, to be spontaneous, to go do something you've always wanted to do but never had the courage, the thrill of taking the leap and praying that you land somewhat soundly. I also got to thinking that none of us have any idea what tomorrow will bring and all I can do is be present with this moment. We can try to prepare and plan, of course. But for the most part I want to just be here and feel like I do pretty well with change like this and I am flexible and creative and will "figure it out". There is always another option, a plan b.
Moving on... so today I am sitting in my office and my boss (well, old supervisor, technically he is my co-worker now because his position was cut, kinda odd, new adjustment) he comes over to me and my co-worker and says "Who wants to make someone's Christmas?!" And I immediately said "I do!".... "let's go.." So we left and went to Wal-Mart where we were going to go shopping. He began to tell me about the funds we still have left over and have the option to help those in need. This woman just recently left a domestic abuse situation with her six year old son and they have barely been living in a hotel for the past few days. She contacted our services and is now getting help. Everyone pulled together immediately, I think part because of the holiday and part because everyone has been feeling a little down about the future of our organization and to be handed a perfectly good candidate to help -you just jump at the chance to do so. The woman had nothing. She has tried desperately to keep her son at his school and he eats lunch at school and that's about it. They have no resoureces or support, until now. They were provided with tons of blankets, clothes, shoes and even games. While we were at Wal-Mart we bought $200 worth of groceries. It was very satisfying being a part of the whole process, and also very fun shopping for someone else. I had a chance to hand deliver the items to the woman at her not so nice motel she is currently at, however within the next few days she will be moved to a better, safer location thanks to our organizations funds. Also the woman is ten weeks pregnant.
This may sound like a totally depressing situation, which it was and they will have a rough road ahead of them. But the fact that this woman was courageous enough to leave her abusive partner with NOTHING and deal with the fact that she will have to accept help from others if she wants to better her situation for her and her kids. I truly believe this family has a better chance at life once they reached out for help and help was given. It's incredible helping someone who you know is going to do something good with that help. So many women stay in abusive relationships because they don't know what they will do next, but there are options, there is help if you look hard enough and more importantly it is SO worth it.
It was a good reminder to me that that is what it is about, helping one person at a time. Also gaining a little more perspective on what some people are struggling with. And praying that our organization and others out there have the chance to thrive in order to serve those that need it.
So whether I am at this particular job for the next two months or the next two years, who the heck knows. But I do know that in my next job I hope to continue to help those that want it and I hope this experience only furthers my passion for working with young people.