As humans, our lives are filled with many things. Our day to day routines are so piled with things that we often lose track of how much we utilize in a day. There are the alarms to wake us up, the gadgets to help us get ready, the vehicles to drive us here and there, the machines to make our work more efficient, and the abundance of electronics to fill each and every need we may have. From the moment we wake up, until the moment we go to sleep we rely on things.
These material things can without a doubt bring value to our lives, whether that be in making tasks easier or providing entertainment, but as I’ve spent time this year focusing on living a simpler lifestyle, I’ve come to realize that it is often these things that distract us from our shared humanity with those who surround us, and our underlying need for authentic connection.
Throughout my previous life experiences including short-term service trips and my occupational therapy education, relationship and therapeutic use of self were recurring themes. I learned of their importance through my experiences, education, and interactions with others. Once my year of service with Mercy Volunteer Corps began, it didn’t take long for their importance to come to light when working with marginalized individuals who are experiencing homelessness. From my first day working with the street outreach team, the need for meaningful relationships was made evident and undeniable.
Many of the clients that my organization serves have experienced unbelievable amounts of trauma in their lives. The stories they share are filled with adversity, judgement, loneliness, and injustice, which have shaped their truth and their reality in ways that are hard to imagine. Hearing these narratives is often painful and heartbreaking, but each story has undoubtedly left a mark on me. The relationships that I have created through these narratives have changed the way that I view the world and the way that I live in it.
My clients have shown me the importance of walking with others through difficult and challenging moments. They have shown me that it can be painful to be present in the lives of others, especially when we feel like we don’t have answers or solutions. It’s not easy to look someone in the eye, knowing that you can’t solve all of their problems or take away all of their pain, but I’ve learned the difference is made when we continue to show up for others anyway. When we repeatedly give our time and energy, we allow for authentic connection and relationship with one another.
Each day I witness the importance of listening to the person in front of me with an open heart and an open mind. I see the difference it makes in people’s lives to respond with “I am here for you” with both words and actions. In recent months I have walked with others through some of the most challenging moments of their lives. There’s no denying that with this comes great grief and great heartache. With that being said, I’ve also come to learn that in walking with others there is great hope and great light to be found. I’ve shared many moments of joy, though kindness, smiles, and laughter, I’ve seen incredible strength and resilience in the people who stand before me, and I’ve witnessed love and compassion in their most authentic form. Through all of these things, I’ve found that in refocusing our perspectives our eyes are opened to the beauty that is hidden within brokenness, and for that I am grateful.
Bailee Hymers: Pittsburgh, PA