After retiring from high school teaching for 38 years, I wanted to participate in a new adventure. This is the beginning of my ninth year at Taller de José. I have found my adventure. I always tell people that one never stops learning and I took that saying to heart. My learning curve has gone off the charts. My life is no longer defined by tests, lesson plans, teacher meetings, homecomings, and proms. I see real, everyday problems. I meet people struggling to survive day to day; people that have been hurt, people that need help understanding what is happening to them. But most important of all, I have met hope.
It starts right here in our office where I have a resource book that is a good four inches thick filled with agencies, organizations and people who are willing to help solve those problems. I am surrounded by a gifted, caring, staff who work every day to make things better for the “dear neighbor” striving together so that we “may all be one”.
I have met wonderful, sharing from their gut clients who sit across from me and spill out their worries, cares and concerns with the desire that I may perhaps be able to shed some light on their darkness by pointing them in the right direction, making the necessary phone calls or by walking with them to court, immigration, various agencies or the doctor’s or dentist’s office. I also do the annulment interviews in Spanish for the Archdiocese of Chicago. I listen and hear their heartfelt stories about mistakes they have made in the past and how they now need to bring closure to that chapter in their lives.
Some of the clients I have become very close with. Seven years ago I was asked to accompany Antonia* to her doctor’s visit and we have been together for many visits since then. She is in her eighties now, living alone on the northwest side of Chicago. After these appointments, we grab lunch together at a Panera or to the cafeteria in the hospital. She calls me to talk or when she is feeling depressed. I have gotten to know about her family and when I accompanied her this summer, they were visiting from St. Louis. I felt like I knew them beforehand because she had spoken about them so much and they likewise felt they knew me too. Antonia is a gentle soul who always asks God to bless me as we say good bye to one another.
Consuelo* is also one of my clients who regularly has many doctor’s visits. I enjoy listening to her talk about her neighborhood and her relatives. She brings me her mail to translate. Consuelo is also alone so when she had surgery at a local hospital I stayed with her until she was in recovery and then in her hospital room. After the operation the doctor came and spoke to me about her condition. I was touched that she had asked the doctor to communicate with me. I felt like family. I made certain that the next day a sister in law would be there to take her home. Consuelo doesn’t have much money but on occasion she brings me a mango or a cookie or some juice or nuts. This action always brings tears to my eyes.
José Luis* and Marisol* have had numerous visits for various things. Both of them had protracted cases that involved over a year going to court at the Daley Center. We finally were successful in both. The case for José Luis was especially taxing because we had to communicate with parties in Texas. I am still in contact with them both as new challenges arise. I am presently working with José Luis on obtaining his driver’s license and Marisol was in a few weeks ago with a relative she thought I might be able to help.
These clients that I have mentioned, and many more, have enriched my life in so many ways. Their trusting nature and their hopefulness in finding a solution to their challenges has made me want to journey with them. Together we can strive to help understand what is happening in their lives and find promise in a sometimes confusing world.
*Client name and details changed to protect client confidentiality.