Making the Most of a Crappy Situation

plungerI love my job, but it’s not an easy one.

That’s actually why  I love it. Every day is different, and I’m always tackling new challenges. A normal work day can include dealing with personnel issues, fundraising, administration, bookkeeping, programming, marketing and volunteer development.

That’s not to mention the constant decisions I have to make that impact the lives of the people we serve.

So, while I’m generally harried and stressed, I’m also generally happy to be at work –  with one exception.

I hate being the one responsible when something goes wrong with the building. I’ve dealt with roof leaks, security alarm issues and, worst of all, plumbing problems. I’ve dealt with so many plumbing problems this past year that I’ve become quite the expert with the plunger.

Of all of my accomplishments, that’s not one in which I take any pride. It’s also one I wish I could avoid.

That’s why, when I was called into the intake office on Friday afternoon, I ignored a rather loud gurgling sound coming from the downstairs bathroom – the ones our clients use.

Instead, I chose to focus on the homeless couple  seeking help. After speaking with the two individuals for a few minutes, I went upstairs to make phone calls on their half.

I was on the verge of resolving their predicament when I got an urgent call from the intake office.

“The bathroom is flooding. There is water all over the floor and there is poop floating in it!”

I looked down at my feet and my cute open-toed shoes.feet

This was not the time to display my mad plunger skills, but, as the person in charge, I still had to deal with the situation.

My shoe excuse didn’t impress the rest of the staff, who looked down at their feet with the same forlorn look that I had given mine.

Finally, the social worker, who was wearing tennis shoes, sighed and waded into the bathroom to get the plunger.

That’s when the young homeless man spoke up. “I can help,” he said. “I’ve done worse jobs.”

I couldn’t imagine a worse job than cleaning up the waste of a complete stranger, but he was true to his word.

He unclogged the toilet, mopped the floor and disinfected the bathroom.

And he never once complained.

While he cleaned, the social worker did an intake and an assessment with his partner, and we were able to find temporary solution.

After the couple left and I had asked staff to put the mop, bucket and gloves in the garbage can outside, I reflected on the incident.

The homeless guy hadn’t thought twice about helping out  because he recognized what he could contribute to a really crappy situation.

And, regardless of the toilet situation, I was just able to help him out with his own very different, but just as  crappy, situation.

And that is why I really, really love my job.

About Trina Bartlett

I live in the Eastern Panhandle of WV, with one dog, two cats, a theater kid in high school, a band kid at West Virginia University and a husband who works strange hours. When I'm not working as a director at a nonprofit social service organization or being a mom, I can generally be found riding my bike, walking my dog and stirring things up.

Posted on October 3, 2014, in My life, perspective and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I really loved this story. We all need to challenge ourselves about judging and classifying others because sometimes the seemingly lost are actually more enlightened. Have a greater capacity to love others unconditionally.
    I live with a severe and at times disabling medical condition and it’s interesting to see how people respond to that. Whenever I travel into Sydney, I always take my walking stick with me whether I need it particularly or not. I generally find people are so nice and helpful and I come home feeling good about humanity forgetting that I had my stick and this brings out the best in people. I have a few friends in wheelchairs and they don’t always get that response and it’s a bit trickier but I’ve been thinking that if you are broken hearted, you should be able to use a stick as well and experience people’s goodness.

    • The really interesting result of the “whole” story behind this story is that I had someone who had struggled for years with an issue open up to me. Life is always about what is right with the world. I believe it’s more about learning to be the right in any situation – if that makes any sense at all.

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