I was asked that question yesterday by someone introducing people at an inter-departmental meeting. I have been with our small organization for a year now, but I do not come to the main office very often. Still, it was disconcerting to have her ask that. When I smiled and answered that I am a social worker and advocate with the domestic violence and sexual assault program, it provoked a variety of responses around the table, including a tasteless joke.
During quiet moments last night and this morning, I found myself pondering what happened. How should I react to it? Yesterday I just put it down to that person being preoccupied, and not having much interaction with me on a regular basis. But then a part of me became concerned . . . am I seen by people as not doing anything? This is not good in an occupational setting; after all, people get fired for not doing their job. The people who “succeed” are usually the ones who get talked about, get photos made of them doing things, bring in more money or grants, or who make a point of keeping good connections with the people who “count.” Then I questioned what I do do in my job. The first year there was a lot of training and organizing (it is a new program), and though I did help people, we are getting off to a slow start. There are various influences in the population I work with that mean they do not always want to reach out and talk with someone they do not already know. They may not even want to admit to themselves they need help. At this point a lot of what I am doing is education — letting people know domestic violence is not just hitting people, and that sexual assault is not something you should “get over.” So it is not obvious that I am doing anything (unless you count the written materials).
This morning I reconsidered the origin of the question. Perhaps she did not remember what I do, because people do not like to think about domestic violence or sexual assault. I remember working a rape crisis table at a community gathering — people would walk by, looking at all the tables, but as soon as they saw the sign about what our organization did, they looked away. It was like we were a communicable disease, instead of people who help an already diseased society. People do not like to acknowledge that.
I also realized being relatively unknown is perhaps a compliment. I am not the one who is known for talking a lot, or calling attention to myself, or causing waves. I quietly go about my business, in a calm (and forgettable) manner. The clients like this. I can be out in the community, helping people, and not call attention to who I am. Hence, it does not give away what may have happened to the client. My age and salt-and-pepper hair also helps with this — I tend to be invisible. 🙂 I offer another level of confidentiality.
Eventually I got to the philosophical question of, why do we have to be known for what we do? Why not be welcomed for who we are? Admittedly, I was not hired because I am a big name, like Steve Tyler as an “American Idol” judge. I was hired to do a job. Nevertheless, I was hired at least partly because of who I am. I struggle with this distinction sometimes. As a kid I was expected to always being doing something useful, and got disdain for day-dreaming or reading too much. This tends to be a First Chakra issue for me, but who we are involves all our chakras, all of our Self. “Doing” tends to come from the Third Chakra (hence the illustration), with the support of all the chakras.
Lots of ponderings. Maybe yesterday I should have answered, “I am very busy on a molecular level.” 🙂