UNDER THE HALO – THOUGHTS AND IMPRESSIONS OF AN ANGEL
– Written By: Kelly Grace –
When I was in grade school, we did an exercise to show how our words affected other people. We were all given half sheets of construction paper with two holes punched in it and a string running between the holes. We were told to decorate them and write our names on them. We then hung them around our necks like giant name tags. Then the teacher read us a story about some child who was having a difficult time. Poor kid could not catch a break. Every time he turned around something was going wrong. The teacher told us that for every thing that happened to the little boy in the story that would make us feel bad if it happened to us, we should tear a piece off our name tag, and the piece should be proportionate to how badly it made us feel. Some kids really got into it and had nothing left at the end of the reading but a string around their neck with two small pieces of paper. Me? I had most of the name tag left and a few, finger-tip sized pieces of paper ripped off.
For weeks, kinds looked at me like I was some sort of Martian. I just shrugged and said that what this kid went through was not so bad compared to what I dealt with daily. So, he dropped his ice cream. Big deal. So, he got called dumb. Who Cares? I thought most of these kids were soft for being so overly dramatic about the assignment.
As a child, I sublimated a lot of my emotions and because of that, it often came out later and in sometimes inappropriate ways. I would push things down so far that it was like packing black powder into a keg and you did not know when I would blow. And when I did it was spectacular. I made 4th of July fireworks look like bottle rockets and sparklers in the back yard.
Where is she going with this you wonder? What does this have to do with finding biological fathers while wearing too much make-up and her trusty lime green hoodie? I am glad you asked. The point, gentle readers is to be in touch with your feelings and TELL people when something upsets you. FEEL your feelings. Do not be ashamed of them. And if you are confronted by someone’s feelings, validate them. If you have hurt them, say you are sorry and mean it. (Wow, blogging is like therapy. I keep finding my own thoughts and feelings, not necessarily related to NPEs, Search Angels and the like coming out here. I spent years paying for it, now I can get y’all to listen to me for free. What a deal!)
A few months ago, I worked a case. I was added to the room, said my introduction, read the notes and dove in. Client never said a WORD. The notes’ said client was looking for biological father, there was some sort of family bruhaha over whether the man on the birth certificate was bio-father, a bunch of snickering and whispering behind hands and some false allegations and lies. I asked a few questions, got no responses, and kept working. I came back a little while later, having found the biological father and announced I had a name. I put a heart emoji after what I said because those who know me, know I do that a lot. Sometimes red, sometimes purple and lime green. I do not know that I got anything else. I should have followed up more because it was a weird interaction all the way around. I did not follow up, and that is on me.
A few months later, as a comment to a post in one of our groups, someone totally trashed their angel and calls them a “cactus” for how unfeeling and prickly they were. One of the other Leads went and looked up the case and … it was me. I am the cactus, and the client is … yep you guessed it, the uncommunicative person. I went into the room to reread and apologize and was told, in no uncertain terms, apology not accepted. Laura and the other Lead came to my rescue, but this person was entitled to their opinion and maybe I needed to re-examine how I approached people.
My mind kept playing replaying the image in my head of 8-year-old me and my barely ripped name tag and my classmate, Dale, with just a string hanging around his neck. I work with a lot of clients, with varying emotional displays. Some are very vocal about their feelings; some I have to ask “How are you doing? Are you ok?” The pitfall of using FB Messenger as opposed to phone or Zoom is that I cannot always read the emotional weather brewing in a client’s face or voice. Obviously, what I took for a lack of interest was masking deep emotional pain that eventually turned into a dirty bomb. Because in venting his pain, this client blew shrapnel everywhere. My fellow administrators covered me as best they could, but in the post where we explained what happened, I did not hide. I took ownership of being the cause of the problem and several clients reached out – both publicly and privately – to show me their love.
All of this is said to remind us all – this process is not easy for anyone. We all navigate these waters differently. Self-care is important, and empathy for others is imperative. If you see someone hurting, stop and offer comfort. If you are hurting, please reach out. We have resources we can offer. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! And please, before you assume the worst about your Angel’s prickliness, clarify. Text is not the greatest medium because you lose the nuances of the way a person phrases things, pauses, and their inflection. Answer questions your Angel has, make sure they are crystal clear about how you feel and where you are in your journey. I cannot think of one of our volunteers – past or present – that is not a kind and generous person, with a caring heart. We hurt when you hurt. Since we do not, as a rule, walk around with our tattered name tags, stopping to rip a piece off in front of each other when something affects us, we have to be able to let others know when we are not ok.