Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Personal Note from "Canada Jon"

The death of Raymond Diaz has galvanized something within me, something that I have thought of in the past and has now come to the front and center of my consciousness.

We have created a community in Pearlington, we volunteers who went to help and became attached to the lives of strangers. We grieve and laugh and celebrate as they do; their deaths and accidents, their jokes and cultural differences, their new homes and restored lives - have all become our own. We care; not because we have to, but because we choose to, and because of that the passing of one in our community affects us deeply, as if it were our own family dealing with a great loss.

In my profession as a therapist, we are trained and warned against transference and counter-transference: the over-identification from and to those whose lives we seek to improve. Yet, in this situation, in which most of us experience our work as a vocation and a calling - not just a job - this concept is a difficult one, as we choose this work because we care and because we want to make a difference where and when we can.

We are not "rotated out" before we care too much; we allow, even invite, our own secondary trauma as we toil in the trenches and share ourselves so easily and readily with the people of Pearlington. There are no "buffers" nor "filters" that are created by some bureaucracy to "protect" us. We are there and open and inviting....and we hurt so much, so easily.

This also is the nature of volunteerism. There is nothing abstract or clinical about this experience; it is raw and risky emotionally. For many of us who knew and cared for Raymond and his family, we have put ourselves in harm’s emotional way and now we must pay.

We will grieve and grow. We will re-double our efforts to find a solution for the Diaz family and we will continue to care.

And that, in a nutshell, is why we will - in the end - do a task that was impossible from the very beginning. That is why we are the ONLY ones who can pull this off. That is the truest nature of volunteerism: doing a job that shouldn’t have had to be done; by people who were never actually asked to do it; with no resources, no money and no time.

Thank you Raymond for this gift. Thank you for needing us and allowing us to open our hearts to you and your family. What you have given us exceeds what we have given you and so the Wheel of Life turns and all are served.

God bless,
Canada Jon

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