It’s now almost a year and a half that I’ve been working in the housing team of Street Nurses. During this period, I’ve been able to assist many people in their personal journey, each of them with a remarkable, unique, and rich life course. Every patient I guide in their recovery process, will leave a mark on my mind, and will increase my knowledge about this world, this system and its shortcomings, about myself and my limits.
However, one meeting touched me in particular, the one with Mr. W. The first time I met him he wasn’t very talkative, he was actually rather reserved. The conversation was rather one-sided. But I think that with my initial clumsiness and my overflowing energy, I involuntarily got into his private sphere. It wasn’t easy to enter his universe. Maybe because of our great age difference? I am 25, he is 70… We are at opposite ends of life. I hardly started adult life while he already spent most of his existence facing the whole of life’s complexity.
As his contact person, I was deeply involved in his healing process.
We met repeatedly for various psycho-medico-social procedures. In the course of our meetings, his personal world, the doors of which were so difficult to open at first, became more accessible, which allowed a bond to form between us. It was far from perfect but something interesting arose.
In the following weeks and months, the guidance gained in significance and authenticity.
The encounters became a source of pleasure despite the numerous psycho-medico-social appointments. Our communication became more fluid, and we could talk about lighter things. We discussed many different topics, showing our differences or common views. The general condition of Mr. W. stabilized. Psycho-medico-social procedures became less and less necessary. However, his follow-up remained relevant, and every instant I spent with him was one of real happiness.
During those moments I didn’t feel I was working.
Then came the time when we reached the limits of guidance... My team and I didn't have much help to offer anymore since his condition had stabilized. He was therefore taken over by the MyWay team (which comes in as soon as someone is stably housed). I was very pleased about this because that transition came at the right time for his future plans, and MyWay focuses on people’s possibilities, strengths, and qualities. On the other hand, I was very sad because it left me with no reason to see him.
It felt like being served a rather strange emotional cocktail
The taste of which I found difficult to identify... Until I became aware of the importance of this lesson: guiding people also means being able to let them go at the right time, towards other destinations and a better future. Ultimately, in terms of our stages of life, we are each other’s opposite, and that will not change.
But I am convinced that the great age difference that separates us was an asset, a means by which we could both learn something about life.
I am sure you can always learn something, regardless of your life stage, if you just pay attention. Thank you, Mr. W., for what you have taught me, and I sincerely hope not to see you on my team again! (laughter)
Help people like Mr W. get on with their lives
(*) We do our utmost to respect the privacy of our patients and our professional secrecy. However, we want to testify to how they must survive and how we are working together to reintegrate them. As a result, the names of places and people are deliberately omitted or changed and real-life situations are placed in a different context. There is no direct link between the photos and the stories above.