Following my first year of college, I started working in direct care. I was cautious and unsure of what to expect, but mainly I was afraid that I wouldn’t have what it took to do the job. I originally was interested in the job because I wanted to work closely with people, I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life, and I wanted to learn how to love people better. What followed was more than I ever could have imagined. All of this happened, and much more.
I started by working in an Assisted Living facility for a year. I enjoyed learning the names and the stories of over 100 residents. Each of them had a unique personality, and a different story to tell. I valued the free moments that I had to sit with them and listen to them talk about their families, their jobs, and look at endless pictures of grandkids. Sitting and listening to my residents talk about their lives and their memories made my days working there worthwhile. I loved getting to cultivate friendships with so many of the people that I cared for, and I truly believe that I learned how to care for people not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually on a whole new level because of this job.
I went on to work in different settings in direct care, and although each place was unique and the people were different, I still found that throughout working in this field I was learning to love people better. Every little interaction, every smile, every “good night” and “good morning” and “how are you feeling today?” meant something to the people I cared for. I remember I had one resident at my first job who told me that they could tell who the good ones and the bad ones were, just by the way they interacted with their residents, and I truly believe it’s true. How we care for other people shows a lot about who we are, and what we believe in.
I think that when you work in a job such as this, you have the ability to be in close proximity with people, you learn the details of their lives, and you see them in a vulnerable, but human state-some in the midst of illness and disease, or even at the end of their lives. You come to understand that caring for others in this way and providing them with their everyday needs helps paint a picture of humanity that we don’t always see- when you strip everything else away, we’re all just people longing to care for others, and to have others care for us.
I think that I was meant to have a job (or several) in direct care. Through doing so, I’ve learned so much about people, and about myself. I’ve learned that caring for other people goes so much deeper than just giving them basic needs- because in reality, our basic needs run deeper than we think. We don’t just need food and water and shelter, we need love, and safety, and emotional support. And as a caregiver, you have the opportunity to provide that every single day. I’ve learned that everyone has a story that’s worth telling, and together all of these stories paint a beautiful picture of the world we live in. And most importantly, I’ve learned that when you learn to love other people, and you do it well, the world becomes a better place. Even if it’s just one little house, or a facility with three hallways. Every time you care for someone and love someone well, you’re changing something. You may think it’s crazy, but I know for a fact that when you care for someone you’re changing their life. I know that because I’ve seen that change in my residents, but even more because I’ve seen that change in me. Caring for people has changed my life.