I work--and am currently sitting in--a house for the rehabilitation of brain and spinal cord injury patients. When you look around, it looks and feels nothing near medical. There are flat screen TVs with HDMI cords running out of them; the furniture is nicer than anything in my past four apartments; though iffy, there is internet for all to use. No bracing florecent lighting, no hard plastic seats.
The house resides in a quiet upper middle-class neighborhood. Though we do not know the names of the neighbors, us employees never hesitate to wave hello as we drive by. They wave back, standing in their well kept yards, and clean cars in the driveway. Rarely does it occur that someone puts their auto in the street.
But while inside--when the clients come out of their rooms--I (and my fellow workers) become acutely aware of just how strange of a world we are currently in. We cook dinner and do laundry for grown men, who still act like their 16 or 17 on a good day--13 on a bad day. It is my job, through their various programs and by my example as a functioning member of society, to help make them viable members of society.
There is just one problem: I don't know if there is anything I (or any of us) can do to make that so.
Try as I might, I cannot stop parents or guardians from treating grown men like children--spoiled children--and letting them get away with drug abuse, physical abuse (O, yes) and general misconduct that one might think to see in a movie or reality show, not in a church, or gas station, or Meijer...Weddings...Thanksgiving dinner. The list goes on.
Yet, I do like this job. I work with decent people, even if we are just bodies to the company: there to take up space until we've had enough, or they want to replace us with somebody who will work for less. Never forget, dear reader, that every for-profit is in the game for money and nothing more. Philanthropy is a ruse and cover to bring in more clients and dollars.
But we deal with it. And we cook.
It's rare in my life that I can go shopping and not having to be conscious of how much I spend. But here that is possible. For just a handful of guys, we are given dollars upon dollars. And we use it--all of it.
One of the many great frustrations of working in this field is the constant battling with clients. Their programs are ever changing, and rarely effective in changing their behavior. We are here to make them better. They are here to see if they can get us fired. In the kitchen is where we have our reprieve.
In the kitchen there is work to be done: dishes, food preparation, and constant debate of the menu. In essence: there is work and a lot of it.
It is a great way of telling which clients are ever going to be ready for the real world. The ones that take an interest in what we do while in the kitchen, and wish to participate. They are that much closer to being human again, and make no doubt that it isn't a human existence that is led in this place. It is only a half living and sleepy state, waiting for the day that someone you have never seen before tells you that they trust you out there.
It's tough on them. It's tough on us. But right now, there is dinner to be made.