Wednesday, December 9, 2009

ON THE FRONT LINES

I will be working the week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Traditionally, it is the slowest week for employment in the public employment office. The majority of my staff will be on holiday leave. Most employers are closing out the year and all the anticipated extra help for the holidays is in place. Most people will be going to parties, spending time with family and friends, experiencing the holiday spirit. The people who come into the employment office are in a much different place. I will be there to hear their words. Anytime a counselor can help ease the pain of another human it is a gift to both.

When we come into contact with the other person, our thoughts and actions should express our mind of compassion, even if that person says and does things that are not easy to accept. We practice in this way until we see clearly that our love is not contingent upon the other person being lovable. Thich Nhat Hanh

These are indeed extraordinary times for employment counseling. We have record numbers of people coming into the One Stop Career Center. People are struggling and fear is all too pervasive. Often displaced emotions are directed at the front line staff. We have no control over hiring and firing. We did not make the unemployment system nor do we determine whether or not someone is eligible to collect benefits. We are however, one of the few places of direct public contact. I discuss customer service at every staff meeting. I ask the staff not to take verbal attacks personally, but I also do not want them to take abuse. When they cannot handle a customer, they know my door will open.
Every day I encounter expressions of frustration and anger. I am experienced enough to shift most customers into a better state of consciousness. Some are not in a place to receive my guidance or acknowledge possible blame and consequences. Whether I like them or their decisions, I accept it is their counseling session. Sometimes I can do no more than listen and I have to trust that the experience will be therapeutic for both of us. Other times people open up and tell me their story and we are able to transcend the despair. And sometimes it seems like magic when we find a solution that really feels right. I do my best to offer an honest, caring and encouraging environment.

It is through our compassion that we care for the dignity, well-being and integrity of every person around us. Our capacity to embody this quality, simple as it may seem, is the strength that can change the world around us. Thich Nhat Hanh


On a global scale we are clearly in a time of great transition. Communications and the availability of knowledge have made our world “smaller.” When we think about renewable energy in the “green” revolution, let us not forget about the human resources. Counseling is about helping, healing and at its best, renewal of energy. I invite you to visit the Charter for Compassion website and perhaps add your signature.

http://charterforcompassion.org