At our monthly team meetings, one of our crew members discusses some of our five values: strength, courage, commitment, heart, and spark (formerly trailblazing). This is Lisa’s reflection from this month’s meeting.
When I applied for the position of relationship manager at YACC, it was because my spirit was craving a workplace that mattered, a place that had core values that aligned with my own, and a place I could call home.
I’d done some interesting projects and met amazing people in my previous jobs, but it had been a long time since I had worked in a place that had heart and soul. YACC was just that. Strength, courage, commitment, heart, and spark — the values that were on my wish list were waiting for me at YACC.
Today, I want to talk for just a minute about the value that has spoken the most loudly to me in the last couple of months: strength.
Strength has so many different connotations in our society, ranging from the physical to the spiritual. For the young adults we serve, they have both: fighting the battle of a cancer diagnosis takes such incredible physical strength and stamina, but cannot be accomplished without unparalleled inner strength. Sometimes, as we have learned, when one fails us, we rely on our caregivers, our friends, our family, and our support networks to lend us some of theirs and to help fill our empty cups.
I have always thought of strength in that way, much like a warm cup of tea that can be shared. It can also be drained and need to be replenished. If we have excess, we can spread that around to someone whose cup is empty. If we don’t have enough, we should be brave enough to ask to borrow someone else’s.
Just a week before Christmas, my own strength was tested as my daughter faced her own health crisis. She had lost physical and spiritual strength, and was begging for someone to help refill her cup. So, as any good mama bear would do, I fought and sought until we found a way to get her cup noticed. In the same moment in time, I felt my own strength called upon, and blessedly was able to say the words to get the help that I needed to keep going for her.
I couldn’t sleep, could not eat, could not focus on all that had to be done as we faced the busiest week of the Christmas season. Just 10 days before Christmas Eve, she was admitted to the Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre, and I felt my strength evaporate. My partner, Ed, held me up (quite literally) as my knees buckled outside the doors when I left her behind. He quietly said to me, “They have her now. She is in good hands and is where she needs to be.”
Those were words I repeated as friends and family called and told me how devastated I must feel. Ever the eternal optimist, I put on a strong face, because my mother told me that if you acted brave you generally start to feel that way, too. Every text message, every call, every coffee, prayer, shoulder, and hug helped refill my cup as I felt the daily drain of a child in hospital and two more at home. On a particular night when I felt my cup was leaking, I had the strength to text two different friends and say, “Help me, I am faltering.” These women shared their strength, listened to my hurt, and offered their support.
One night, the nurse on duty knew I was struggling to leave my child. He offered his strength, walked me to the door and said, “Go home and sleep. We have her. All is well.”
These encounters all helped me go back to the Janeway feeling strong and ready to face another day.
At a time when I was supposed to be strutting my stuff from a new career perspective, I was at my all time mental and physical low, but yet my fabulous coworkers — who, in fairness, had not yet even had the time to properly get to know me, or whether all this stuff Geoff said I could do was even true — offered their strength to me. They messaged, sent kind words, and told me they had my back. And that to me, my new friends, is the definition of strength: having the back of another when they feel their own legs failing them, and the courage to say, “I don’t feel strong today; may I please have some of yours?”
It’s a caregiving cycle that we talk about all the time here at YACC, how if we don’t take care of ourselves, we cannot care for others. Caregiving and support professions are a tiring game, but worth every sore back, tired hand, and wet shoulder. At YACC, we are strong, and we have each other’s backs, in every sense of the word. Xo