Yesterday afternoon, I had the pleasure of running into a client I knew from an agency where I used to work. I forgot his name, but recognized him as soon as I drove up. There was a time when I was very good at remembering names and faces, but not so much with the names anymore. On occasion, faces can be a challenge too. As I was getting out of the car to take care of some business, I planned not to say anything unless he initiated it. This is what we are taught in mental health for the protection of privacy and respect of our clients. And I’ve often seen clients in the community over the years. One time, I made the mistake of initiating a greeting to a client that was the manager at a major retail chain. That was an awkward experience to say the least. I knew better, but it slipped my mind because I’m generally excited about seeing people that I know while out and about. Whatever the case, although he returned my greeting, he appeared so uneasy that I vowed not to make that mistake ever again. I would imagine that this is a challenge in very, small cities and we have plenty of small, rural cities/counties in Texas.
I did wonder if he recognized me. It has been 4 years since we’ve seen each other. What I remember is that he is a very intelligent man with a jovial and good-natured spirit. He struggled with depression, but I could see that he put in the effort to maintain a positive mindset. As I entered the building, he called my name and my heart and face smiled. However, I still couldn’t recall his name. It was awkward for a few seconds because the reaction most people have (at least where I live) to seeing someone that you haven’t seen in a while is to hug. Also, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more of a toucher and hugger. We almost motioned to hug, but settled into a handshake. I was in the process of entering the building when he called me from outside, so one person was holding the door open while another was exiting. We held them up for a moment with our greeting, but it was worth it. It was so good to see him because oddly enough, I thought about him recently and here he was in the flesh.
After I took care of business, we caught up for a few minutes. Not surprisingly, he’s doing well. He told me his name, without my asking, and I hoped not to forget it again. He said that he still tells people about me and how I was when I worked at the agency. He spoke highly of a counselor who encouraged him to move on to bigger and better things because he is ready. We exchanged closing words and went on our way.
After a long, exhausting week of traveling, that meeting made my week. It reminded me of the privilege it has been to work as intimately as I’ve had with people. Speaking to him in that moment reminded me of what I intended to do when I was a clinician, which was to plant seeds. In meeting people where they are, because not everyone self actualizes before your eyes or while on your caseload, I vowed to plant seeds of hope. I viewed myself as part of the process of change and wanted them to know that someone (as in me) sincerely cared about their well being.
I no longer work as a practitioner, but this is a reminder that I am still a seed planter. I want to plant seeds of hope and inspiration in everyone that crosses my path. This may sound overly ambitious and idealistic to some, but it’s true.
Also, I might not be the loudest in the room, but I do want my absence to be felt when I’m gone and I’ve heard on more than one occassion that I am missed.