Have you seen someone’s smile
when they suddenly realize
they are loved and understood?
Have you see the respect in the eyes
of a frail adult when they know
they are respected?
Have you seen a homeless person
land a job, realizing they’re an
important part of society, again?
Have you seen the abused child
settle into the arms of a new family
who shows him compassion
and patience and is willing
to help him feel special?
If so, then you have seen Jesus.
I lead groups for people who come to our program. Some of the groups include anger management, leisure and recreation, and work place fundamentals. There is one man in our program who loves to come to all group meetings. John is about forty years old and suffers from schizophrenia. He has been in legal trouble many times, and has now been in the mental health system for several years. John is the most enthusiastic person in our program. He loves to help everyone. If we need help moving boxes, John always lends a hand. He works in our community mowing lawns and helping groom the yards of his neighbors. He has the heart of a servant.
John has that same spirit in the groups, and he looks forward to coming. There is another employee in our program who also facilitates groups, and John always helps her with buying snacks, setting up and cleaning up after the group has ended. John is always the first one there and the last one to leave.
Last week, we were short-staffed, and my team needed help delivering medication to our members who live in apartments. I felt rushed, because I also had three group meetings to lead that day. I quickly delivered the medications and rushed back to lead the first group. I arrived a little late, and John, in his friendly way, let me know about it. I apologized to John and explained why I was late. He said he understood, but he appeared nervous and anxious that our group meeting wasn’t starting on time. Sometimes, the slightest change in routine can greatly upset those with mental illness.
The topic we were discussing in the group meeting was how to solve problems. I went through the basic steps for problem solving and then gave the group a sample problem to solve. I try to make the sample questions relevant to real-life situations. This seemed to be an ideal time to bring up ways to handle a group being cancelled because a staff leader is absent.
I led them through the first step to solving the problem, which is to state the problem. For some reason, many people in our program have a hard time with this step. When John had a hard time expressing the problem, I gave the example of what happened the prior week, when I was on vacation and no one was available to teach my group for me. John was then able to state the problem, and we discussed why it became a problem.
John explained how he saves his money to come on the bus. The bus ride can take up to two hours each way. He explained how disappointing it is to come all this way, only to discover there isn’t anyone to lead the group. He didn’t report this is a frustrated or angry tone; he simply explained why it upset him when groups were cancelled.
This helped me realize how important each group is to him, as well as make me aware of the steps he has to take to come to our group. Sometimes in our job, it is easy to focus on getting out the medication, finding housing for people in crisis and other things, and simply not see group meetings as important. John taught me a lot last week. I must remember that he is important, too! Groups are the heart of our program. Those who attend these meetings feel like a valuable, necessary part of a small community, and their ideas are heard by their peers and leaders. They socialize with other before and after the group, as well.
I will thank John this week for what he taught me.