Thursday, August 25, 2016

How do you wear your stress?

I have a big birthday coming up, so age is on my mind. I confess to being fairly shocked at the person gazing back at me in the mirror: the smile lines and strands of gray hair startle me.

This is what's in my head as I sit in on an interview with an older client. She's had a hard life: her husband walked out on her, leaving her as a single mother; her parents died shortly afterwards, deepening her grief; and she's been hungry often in her life. Recently she had a stroke, and the medical bills have been overwhelming.

The surprise is when she pulls out her identification along with her children's: I assumed she was in her 60s with grown children, but she's actually 12 years younger than me with children living at home. Stress has aged her.

The CCSC volunteer helping her is kind and patient, coaxing out details of her story so we can help with immediate needs as well as make quality referrals to other nonprofits. She needs food and clothes, but we also connect her with a medical clinic offering pediatric care as well as mental health services. She's looking for a higher paying job so we send her to CCSC's JobNet program.

She leaves our offices a little lighter, but her overall burden is heavy. This is not a feel-good story - it's a hard story that reminds me of how small my struggles are compared to others'. It's a story that makes me grateful to work at CCSC.

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