Both Sides: part 2

I don’t know how to start this post. I don’t know how to write the introduction. So I am just going to write it.

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It is so important to me that we remember that we are all human, that we all have our struggles, that we really should be helping each other get to where we want to be, as best we can. And maybe that sounds idealistic. But it is possible.

I don’t  want to be miserable, I don’t want to make other people miserable. I don’t want to be a statistic, categorized or stuck in some stupid little box where my participation in life will be stunted, where passersby have all the choices and I have but a few.

Inside I have to follow the rules. I can pace, yell, smile, plot and politely request assistance and revisions of the rule book, the expansion of my enclosure. Outside they can choose to gawk or heckle, help or pity or ignore me. And I don’t want any of that. In the box, the odds are not in my favor; the conversation, the division of power it’s all one sided. It’s “Us” versus “Them”.

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I work for the Canadian Mental Health Association – North and West Vancouver branch. My coworkers and I gathered to brainstorm some ideas for our next event, a way of celebrating and giving back to the awesome community we live in.

And that was what we wanted it to be from the moment we sat down, an event where the giving would be heartfelt and the celebration genuine; where we could come together as a community and have a great time!

And I just about cried.

Because everyday I come to work, I get to help people. Everyone is so supportive and tries their very best to help everyone they come into contact with find what they need. The diversity, learning and growth of staff, volunteers, clients and community is respected and encouraged.

There is no “Us” there is no “Them”. There are no stupid questions. When someone asks, “How are you?” they really want to know. There is no judgement passed, everyone who comes in the door or over the phone gets a genuinely happy smile and a sincere “How can I help you?” My colleagues are wonderful people, true professionals who are both knowledgeable and approachable.

Brilliant, I know. But what makes it all so much more incredible is the contrast between this, and its darker counterpart. I have seen both sides, I have been on both sides.

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I have had to ask for help, for information, for support from different organizations where I am greeted by stony faced employees who just want to make it through the day with as little effort as possible and have forgotten how to smile. When communication is required they use your file number instead of your name. In these places and situations, I become a number, a statistic, a specimen to be placed into a certain category and either studied or forgotten. My human qualities and individuality become irrelevant. And I hate it. It is dehumanizing and demoralizing for everyone, no matter what side of the counter you are on.

So now you see why my colleagues are so amazing.

At this event, everyone will be on equal footing. We will come together as a community of individuals and celebrate.

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