Monday, May 13, 2013

I’ve Got Your Back

I've got your Back
Originally published on:

That's Another Story

 by +Kristi Jedlicki

How many times have you said to someone or had someone say to you,

"I've got your back."  

It is a popular phrase that is easy to say, but actually following through with this declaration can be anything but easy.  Having someone's back sometimes is inconvenient, stressful, perilous, and a host of other adjectives that we didn't bargain for when uttering those words.  Yesterday, some very special people reminded me that they had my back, and in return, they have my heartfelt gratitude. 

This week has been busy at the day shelter for homeless men where I work, and we have had a lot of new faces joining our "family".  We really are like a family in so many ways, and that sense of family was on display in a number of ways this week.  One of the most touching displays was when one of the gentlemen with a history of heart problems began to feel ill and requested that an ambulance be called for him.  As he waited for the ambulance to arrive, another guest helped the staff to keep him calm and comfortable, and when the gentleman was being loaded onto the stretcher, the other man continued to offer him words of support, while gathering up his belongings and coat and making sure that they accompanied him to the hospital.  One of the EMTs took note of his kindness and thanked him for his help, and later when I also praised him, he humbly replied, "I would want someone to do the same for me, and that's what we do here.  We look out for one another."  He had that gentleman's back, because that is what we do here indeed.

Yesterday, a new guest arrived at the day shelter.  This gentleman brought more with him than his backpack of belongings.  Like everyone else who walks through our doors, he brought with him a great deal of pain and unresolved issues.  He came to us seeking help for an addiction, and because of that addiction, he became very agitated and upset when another staff member had to explain that he would need to stay in a local overnight shelter until a bed at a treatment center became available the next day.  He was hurt, and hurt people hurt people.  When he did not get the help he desired, he began yelling at the staff member and me and became very agitated in front of the rest of the men in the shelter.

We attempted to de-escalate the situation by speaking to him calmly and firmly and reassuring him that he would receive the help he sought, but he was not quick to respond to our reassurances.  He continued to yell and curse, and he moved closer to me, until he was in my face.  It was only the second time since I began working there that I felt threatened, and since I did not know this gentleman, I was not sure what he was capable of doing or the best way to help calm him down.  At one point, he yelled, "You don't care about me.  You're just doing this for a fucking paycheck."  The words barely left his mouth, when behind my back, I heard the sound of chairs being pushed away from the tables.  I knew without turning around that my guys most definitely had my back, and with that, I felt my fear disappear.  With the help of another staff member, this man was escorted out of the shelter, and when I went back to my office, one of the guys stopped me to make sure I was okay and said, "Your crew had your back, and we were ready to come in after you."  I thanked him and left work shortly after that, and I thought that this incident was over.  While the threat had passed, the effects lingered today for some of the men.

As I prepared to go to a meeting this morning, one of the guys stopped me and said, "I thought you were going to get hit yesterday, and I was up  out of my chair, and so was everyone else", and he then added, "Last night, I said a prayer for God to keep you safe and for Him to send someone to protect you when we aren't around."  The look of concern on his face and sincerity in his voice truly touched my heart, and I could not find the adequate words to thank him.    Later in the afternoon, the man who told me that my "crew" had been ready to intervene, if needed, approached me again and said, "I am sorry that you got hurt yesterday."  I reassured him that I had not been hurt and was fine, and he explained, "When he said that you were doing this for a paycheck, I could tell by the look on your face that he hurt your heart.  The guys and I were talking about it at dinner, and no-one here believes that, because you love us right back, like you always say."  In that moment, I came to understand the true meaning of what it means to have someone's back, and I also understood how truly fortunate I am to be a member of this particular family.  Whether I am at "home" or not, I know that they have my back, and you better believe that I have their backs.  That's what we do, because that's what a family does.

That's another story . . .

I read this first thing when I woke up this mornin and it moved me ta tears. Kin I aisk Ya'awl a favor? Since it's Mothers Day can ya give Ms. Kristi here a "Thank Ya Kindly" comment and share it on yer page with yer friends? Thank Ya Kindly, VT.