As an AmeriCorps Volunteer, I learn a lot about so many different areas of working with a community. I’m lucky enough to work at a local Family Resource Center working one-on-one with families and individuals, often who are struggling to put food on the table and pay their bills on the little to no income they have. There are five things that I have learned and use on a daily basis that you can apply to your own life no matter what field you are in.
Being an obsessive planner has its pros and cons. I make lists of everything that needs to be done. It’s a great trait, but it’s difficult to check things off of a list when I have to rely on others to help get them done. Some of them are things my clients need to do for themselves and all I can do is remind them. Other things on my list are things I need to delegate to other people I work with. You learn patience very quickly calling any government office five or twenty times before getting a single answer.
I’ve organized several events where details fell through the cracks. During my last Open Mic, our promised mic never appeared, but the night still went great sans microphone. When you ask people to do something for you, you can’t always count on things happening according to your plan. All you can do is put it out there what you’d like help with and a goal date. This may mean things may not happen on time or at all. That’s okay. Plan for getting nothing on your wish list and always have a back-up plan, and you will often be surprised at how great things can go.
Education at Any Age
There are dozens of questions my clients ask me and I’ve been trained to know a lot of the answers; but my role is not always to have all the answers, sometimes I have to simply teach my clients to find the answer for themselves. You can teach anyone at any age something new, and you can learn anything new anytime you want.
Having Empathy for Every Human Being
Part of working with low-income and underprivileged families and individuals means taking on the role of a shoulder to cry on. I once had a day full of appointments with clients, and every last one of them sincerely cried to me due to their stress levels, and I’ve often cried along with my clients. Putting yourself in someone else’s situation and trying to imagine what it would be like if you had their hardships is always the best advice. Don’t just assume anything about anyone. For all you know, the homeless person you pass on your way to work every day and “Get a job!” to is looking for a job. People are shades of grey and you should respect and show empathy to every person you come into contact with.
Don’t Bring Work Home
This is a good tip, no matter what field you are in, but especially in a position like my own. I have learned that it does not do anyone any good when I show up to work exhausted because I stayed up worrying about my clients. Self-care is extremely important. Some days I use my drive home to clear my mind of all the worries of my work day by turning on my favorite music and singing along the whole way home. You can also take some simple deep breaths before walking into your home. Most management persons will tell you to leave your personal drama at the door when you are at work, so give your home the same respect and do not cross the threshold of your door with work worries. Find what works for you to take care of yourself. You can’t accomplish anything if you are not well.