Thursday, February 11, 2010

R~E~S~P~E~C~T: This is What it Means to Me

Working with clients at the battered women's shelter is both a blessing and a challenge. Rarely are they happy about being mandated to attend my weekly anger management group. It is not uncommon for them to be angry and unattentive during our meetings. Some sit with folded arms and closed minds.
Last year was no exception. "Rebecca" was agitated and complained she didn't need this "crap". She had five kids to care for and this was taking her away from them. Her body language clearly stated how upset she was: she sat next to the exit door with arms and eyes closed. Periodically, she would mumble something under her breath. I didn't let her attitude phase me. If she disagreed with something I said, I would ask to hear her input. I acknowledged her view point as valid (it was) and told her I appreciated her input. Not once did I challenge or criticize her. Even in the most sensitive of topics (I'm a strong Christian, she's an atheist), I respected an valued her position.
As weeks turned into months, Rebecca's attitude slowly changed. I was no longer viewed as the enemy but rather someone who was caring and accepting. Gradually, her chair moved closer to me, arms unfolded and she took an interest in what I had to say. She even began participating in the meetings.
Several months later, she came to me excited with the news that she was finally moving into her own apartment. I was thrilled for her as she put her arms around me to give me a big hug.
"I'm going to miss you," she said. "Can I still come to the meetings?"
"Of course!" I told her. "I would love to have you here."
She had gotten a really good job in her field of nursing. When I asked her where she would be working, she stated, "Oakland Care Center." My jaw hit the floor. We had just put my dad in that facility. "What's his name?" she asked. "I'll make sure he gets extra special care." I knew she would.
Every human being deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, even and especially when they are at their worst. Respect will bring out the best in them. Be the example. Let others aspire to be like you.

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