Monday, May 23, 2011

Switching Places

Out of infinite longings rise
finite deeds like weak fountains,
falling back just in time and trembling.
And yet, what otherwise remains silent,
our happy energies—show themselves
in these dancing tears.

- Rainer Maria Rilke

You know those moments when all you can do is cry? It comes almost instantaneously- you don’t even have a chance to think about it. It feels like everything inside of you swells up- and all that’s swollen decides to seep out through your eyeballs. And these are the tears that usually stream- they don’t gather, drip, or slip back inside. And sometimes, if it’s just perfect, you can feel each individual strand as it falls from your lid, traces along the side of your cheek and free falls from chin to chest. It is when the tears come like this, with no forceful desire for emotion, that I feel most human.
 Daniel’s * eyes are often wet as he tells me of his latest health concern, loneliness of the death of a family member, or anxieties of living in a room with 99 other men. But his willingness to trust me has built a bond unlike many I’ve experience with other participants.
Wednesday night, Daniel wasn’t on my list of 10-12 men to meet with. But earlier in the evening he asked me if I could talk to him before I left, so at about 10 ‘til 9 I called him into my office. He had a simple request, but it meant making a small exception – one I decided I was willing to make. But my assessment was intercepted. Apparently, there was not a good enough reason for this exception to be made. And as I walked back to Daniel in my office – the moment came. I started to swell – and my tearful humanity came forward, completely unannounced.
 I said to him, my voice quivering, “I’m sorry, I can’t.”
He looked a little caught off guard. He reached out and touched my arm and said, “It will be ok, we’ll figure it out.” He came up with another solution for himself as I tried to gather myself.
Suddenly we switched roles. He became the comforter- the social worker. He was, for whatever reason, suddenly telling ME that it would be OK.
And-even though I was still so mad, I thought, “what a human moment” - a real relationship. And that is why I hate the social worker- client relationship so much. Because things like this aren’t supposed to happen. But perhaps it’s worth breaking the rules just a bit to experience such a strangely beautiful, human moment.