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How All the Difference Can Make the Difference

Published by William Lacey on

The diverse backgrounds and experiences of the dedicated staff at Triangle are part of what makes it such an engaging place to work. I always find it interesting to learn what inspired members of our talented team to work in human services, and what experiences, besides formal training, may have prepared them to help people in the ways that we do here at Triangle.

For instance, I entered into human services quite unexpectedly, after having spent a significant part of my life building a career in the business world as a Corporate Communications Specialist for a large New England banking network. I then transferred those skills to a client services position with an up-and-coming prepress firm. As the company grew, so did my career. I moved up from Project Manager to Manager of Client Services and Marketing, and eventually to General Manager. Those years were both exciting and intense, and came with an upward progression of monetary and material rewards. To maintain the requisite style of professionalism and success, I lived in three-piece suits and hard wingtip shoes. I proudly hung my sea prints and sword upon the walls of the large, inner office that I came to occupy to make it more my own. After all, it was where I spent nearly all my waking hours, and often, many hours that I should have been sleeping.

During my years there, the company developed into a three-shift operation, and became one of Boston’s high-end prepress and graphics firms. We had a prestigious and highly demanding clientele, comprised of many top publishing companies, financial corporations, and advertising agencies. The business, and therefore most of my life, was driven by the unyielding pace of daily “do-or-die” deadlines that had to be met without sacrificing the high quality for which we had become known.

Such was life on the proverbial “merry-go-round” until the tragic events of 9/11 slammed on the brakes. Marketing capital was drastically cut in the uncertain times that followed, which led to the stagnation and downsizing of many businesses in my field, and I found myself in the midst of a sustained layoff.

However, a turning point came out of this most inopportune time, offering an opportunity for personal growth and discovery. My unemployment allowed me the time to assist a desperate relative through a terrible period in their life. The process of assisting and advocating for them so that they could receive the needed supports to regain their life reawakened a previous interest in rehabilitation services I had back in college. Thus, after recognizing both a deeper sense of personal fulfillment and the significance of what had been accomplished for my relative, I shifted my sights to human services.

I was first employed in human services by a non-profit agency where I worked both one-to-one and in groups, teaching business skills and providing job development and placements within the local community. It was a major change and in the beginning, I felt like a fish out of water, as I marveled at the ease, compassion, and skill with which my fellow staff were able to relate to and assist the participants. After years of taking charge and being responsible for fixing problems, I had to adjust my expectations and my approach after realizing that it was not always necessary or helpful for me to try to fix or control matters. I needed to learn to do what my gifted co-workers were doing, which was to slow down and really see and listen to the whole person, and to allow myself to look at the folks with my heart more than with my eyes. When I did that, I stopped making assumptions about their needs, capabilities, and probable outcomes. Instead, I came to see and know the true person beneath the outward persona that we too readily base our initial opinions on. Our eyes cannot see what is essential in people: their true spirit, abilities, needs, and desires. I found that without the deeper vision of the heart, we’re likely to overlook or discount the real attributes, capabilities, and desires of those we endeavor to help.

Additionally, as I looked with my heart, I was humbled by the realization that for some, a simple job that offers only a few hours per week can be immensely fulfilling and satisfying. While I didn’t want to overlook anyone’s real abilities, I also didn’t want to dismiss the great significance that any job, no matter how meager it may seem to some of us, can hold for another in terms of building their confidence, self-esteem, and pride in their contribution to society.

Moreover, I learned that if we don’t take the time and care to truly view the people we serve, we not only limit their opportunities for a more fulfilling life, but we rob ourselves of our job’s best rewards: the joy of making a connection with an individual and seeing them light up with confidence, the discovery of purpose, and a sense of belonging and contribution.

Since I changed careers, I’ve had a number of opportunities to return to my former profession. However, after having so many rich, personal experiences in human services, I find that my former position no longer holds the same appeal for me. Rather than devoting my life to meeting strict deadlines in order to sell or promote things to a public I shall never come to know, I now derive greater fulfillment from helping individuals, whom I come to know very well, find their greater sense of purpose, fulfillment, and belonging through meaningful employment in the community. Further, it isn’t necessary to impress these clients with elaborate presentations, perks, favors, or dinners. All our clients want from us is to receive our trust, kindness, and to be truly seen and understood.

Indeed, a good day at work for me now is when I succeed in connecting with insightful and progressive employers who are eager to collaborate with Triangle because they, too, recognize what is essential in ALL human beings: the inner spirit, dignity, and individual attributes that we all desire to contribute to our community. Every human being wishes to be connected to humanity and to be seen for who they truly are. This requires a connection and vision that comes not from the eyes, but from the heart. Thus, a significant part of our mission at Triangle is to enlighten the greater community by demonstrating how to see others with one’s heart through our collective example. In doing so, we unlock the doors to opportunities and inclusiveness, as our actions do much to remove stigmas, assumptions, and misconceptions. This is the profound difference we can make through the work we do at Triangle.

It is my sincere desire that, through this change which has made all the difference in my life, I may continue to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

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