Friday, November 5, 2010

(43-101) My Heart Is Smiling...

When I entered college I was a Pre-Law major but I switched to sociology; with a concentration in criminal justice; my sophomore year.  It was my training as a Freshman Student Assistant and internships with a United Way community center that qualified me to become a Social Worker upon my graduation.  I remember applying for a child care worker position, at a Residential Treatment Center; and the HR manager informed me that since I had a bachelor's degree, I was actually eligible to apply to be a Social Worker instead; and I was shocked. I thought that a Social Work position would have required more education, but at the level that I would be working; what I had was sufficient.
I applied, got the job and worked for about 9 months until a change in management and policy, inspired me to resign. I was unemployed for a month until I received a call from a Social Work supervisor who had heard about me through my old supervisor, and she asked me to come interview with her at Graham-Windham. G/W was located in Hastings-on-the-Hudson, and I lived in Rockland County, so a commute would be at least 45 minutes and involve going over the Tappan Zee bridge, which didn't thrill me; but the supervisor assured me that I could set my own hours so that I could avoid traffic and I decided to meet with her.
I accepted the position at Graham Windham and was assigned to a cottage of 15, 9-11 year old girls and immediately fell in love with one in particular.  I think it's safe to say that I was not your typical Social Worker.  I was young, and inexperienced and I worked with the girls on everything from interpersonal skills to permanency planning.  In the four years that I worked at Graham-Windham; I had 3 girls who were my favorites; and by the time I resigned; all 3 had moved on.  The first girl that I mentioned had moved to an older girls cottage, the second moved to her aunt's home and the third moved to an independent living group home; and I never heard from any of them again.

It seems like a lifetime ago since I was a social Worker; but the girls remained in my heart.  From time to time I would look one up on Facebook, to see if I could find them but up until yesterday I had no such luck.  And then yesterday I hit pay dirt.  I actually found all 3 of my girls and a couple others as well.  I sent a friend request to one,with a brief note.  The second, I was only able to send a note to; and since the third wasn't actually a fan of mine when we parted, I sent only a note rather than a friend request.  The note to all 3 was very similar.  I asked if they remembered me and I told them that I would love to hear from them, if they'd like to send me a note or a friend request; and their responses were overwhelming.

Within a half hour, I received the friend confirmation.  I wrote on her wall and said that I was so happy to see her on Facebook, and that I would love to catch up with her.  And with her permission, I'll share her response, "U r who I thought u r!!!! OMG!!! Thank u FB!!!!"  I responded by saying "So you're happy to hear from me then?" And to paraphrase, she said "I still have crazy love for you."  And my heart smiled.  I texted my friend Hilary, who had also worked at G/W and I said "Guess who I'm friends with on Facebook."  She needed me to provide a genre of where I knew this person from, and as soon as she received the message stating "Graham Windham," she texted the exact name of this girl; well woman.

I woke up this morning looking forward to hearing more from my friend; and found 2 more emails.  I haven't been able to ask the ladies for permission to share their responses; but I will tell you that they brought tears to my eyes as they both wrote about how I was the first person who didn't judge them and brought a positive influence into their lives.  One of the ladies said that she thinks about me all the time; and the other even called me Miss Howell; even though she's at least 31 years old and has a daughter much older than my kids.

I think it's common knowledge that Social Workers don't earn a lot of money, but learning that I have made a real difference in at least three peoples lives; is priceless. I am so gratified to have received these messages.  I am elated, ecstatic and over the moon, to see that these women have gotten their lives together and that they're happy. 
I feel completely validated and it means EVERYTHING to me that they've confirmed that the time that I spent working with them; actually mattered to them and left a lasting impression.

I cannot wait to hear more from all three of these ladies; and I will keep you posted, with their permission.
Till next time...
Queen of EVERYTHING        


Joni Parker said...

Oh Paige....I'm smiling and crying!!! How totally awesome!! I can't even imagine how gratifying that must be... What a great 43-101, huh??!!!

Julie Tucker-Wolek said...

That is sooooooooooooooo awesome!!!!!!! This is one of the million reasons I love FB! :):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):)