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  • jeniferfoster2

Catch the spirit

There is a point I come to when I realize I’m starting to whine. At this point, I realize that there are people who have significantly more challenges than I do. I consider this and I am humbled.

This is why I think considering spirituality important.

For me, spirituality has moved away from considering a “God” (or gods) and moved towards considering something larger than myself. For me, it’s humanity. It’s the connectivity of people. It’s understanding that the energy amongst us, connects all of us. Its knowing that the hurt that anyone feels, ripples through the world, like a stone skipping on the water’s surface. Joy travels in much the same way. What are we spreading? What are we doing to contribute?

People who hear about the work I have done in the past often say things like, “oh – you’re a do-gooder.” Or, “Oh – you’re going to heaven.” I think they miss the point. Perhaps I got into the field because of some naïve idea that I wanted to “do good.” But, as I grew in the field I realized multiple other things that made me stay:

1). The large bulk of why I am where I am in life is largely due to luck and circumstances beyond my control. I could have easily been born into a different family, a different economic situation, a different culture, a different skin color, a different body type, a different religion, a different geographical location. Any single one of those would have changed drastically the trajectory of my life. They are all 100% out of my control. Yet so many people judge others strictly based on those circumstances. It is mind-numbing. Now, I’m not suggesting that I haven’t worked hard. Nor am I suggesting that I have been problem-free or that bad things haven’t happened to me along the way. But, I am saying that my life could have been drastically different if any single one of those circumstances were different, and I am aware of that. I do not take that for granted.

2). A large bulk of my clients are incredibly strong, resilient people. Every single day of doing the work I have, I have been awed by a client: whether it be a client who was homeless, who was struggling with addiction, who was struggling with mental illness, who was (is) a veteran, who was (is) incarcerated, who was in a domestic violence situation and/or was the victim of sexual abuse/assault, someone in danger of eviction. Every single day I was amazed at how incredible the bulk of my clients were because of the fact they were trying to have hope and make changes in their lives despite the incredible hardships they had faced. Some of the people I worked with had experienced things which might have brought me to my knees, and yet, the large bulk of them still had hope that they could make changes in their life. That is bravery. People look down their noses at many of my past clients, but if they had any idea what many of them have lived through, they would think differently.

3). Doing the work with my clients has put my challenges in perspective. People join the professions I have worked in for a multitude of reasons. Many people like to imagine themselves “experts” who can guide others who are less knowledgeable. I hold no such illusions. Many past clients had to make decisions I couldn’t fathom. Decisions such as: do I pay the light and gas bill or pay the rent? Decisions such as “do I sleep on the street with my daughter, because there isn’t a shelter that can take us both, or do I allow the government to take her from me?” Decisions such as, “do I kick my thirteen-year-old child out of my apartment, because he was arrested and the entire family might be evicted if not?” I have heard of abuse which is almost unimaginable. I have learned of complex and sustained trauma that could break a person. And, when I consider my problems next to them, I am reminded of just how minor and inconsequential mine are comparatively. I mean – this isn’t the trauma Olympics. My problems are not insignificant. But, many of my clients have experienced far worse. Additionally, I don’t feel I’m some all-knowing being who should impart my wisdom on the less fortunate. I think I’ve been honored to bear witness to my client’s lives, and there is power in being part of helping to carry their burdens for a bit until they can determine a way forward.

And, what is the point? Why am I posting about this? Because there is part of me that realizes that having this connection to others is incredibly important to me. Deciding to quit my job and become a dive instructor was a major change. It’s been hard for me to fathom how to give up these aspects of my life. I think what I’ve decided is that I shouldn’t give up my interaction with the community. But, I can change the WAY that I interact. It’s important for me to stay connected to a larger purpose.

In considering wellness, I think remembering that there is something bigger than you is important. Why? Because it helps remind you that you are not alone in your suffering. Others have experienced something similar, and often something worse than you. Also, if you let it, it can remind you to have hope. Some people find this in considering a deity or an afterlife. There is comfort in believing there is an “all-loving god” who protects you. Or that you aren’t alone in this world. Similarly, it can feel helpful that there is a being “keeping tabs” on things like good acts and sins. This is not me suggesting that any of this is false, by the way. I have simply determined that I cannot know any deity’s mind, nor do I need to. For me, I gain comfort in seeing the strength of my clients and both their willingness and the actions they take in making changes in their lives.

So, spirituality is important because it reminds you that you aren’t alone. It reminds you to have hope. It reminds you that there is peace and love in the world, if only you look for it.

I’m not suggesting you have to believe in spirituality the way I do in order to find happiness. I don’t think you do. But, I challenge you to connect to something bigger than yourself. Regardless of whether you believe in humanity, or a god, gods or in mother earth, you are not alone on this planet. You are not alone in your suffering or your joy. You can choose to spread love or hate. You can choose to spread positivity or negativity. You can choose to feel your pain alone, or to get comfort from others.

“For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth - that Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.” Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

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