On my second day at Taller de José I was presented with the opportunity to shadow a Compañero as he accompanied a client to Stroger hospital. Our plan was to meet in the main reception at 8:30 as that is where our client, would be dropped off by paratransit because she is visually impaired. Anxiously, I arrived early to ensure I would find the meeting spot on time. 8:30 came and passed, the Compañero I was shadowing called our client inquiring where she was, to which she responded saying the ride never arrived. After conferring with our supervisor at Taller de Jose we called back to find out that Paratransit had just arrived, albeit incredibly late.
After we confirmed that she was on her way it became our duty to communicate the situation to the clinic receptionist, even though she was running a half-hour behind schedule she did not need to reschedule her appointment. Shortly after our client arrived and we met her at the door the Compañero placed the client’s hand on his shoulder to begin shepherding her through the myriad of hallways to the waiting room of the clinic. There we would sit for quite some time waiting for the overdue nurse to appear.
Most of the accompaniment simply was sitting and waiting with our client: wait in the reception area, followed by more waiting in the clinic for the doctor to appear, capped off by the wait for the paratransit to take her home. I fathomed the insignificance and contradictory importance of all the time spent waiting together. Insignificant so far as the time waiting for appointments was not time in which the client was receiving assistance. Monumental because in that free time we were able to be present with her to share ourselves with her and in turn listen to her stories. And, because she is blind often she would reach out or ask if we were there. Even though she was blind she looked directly into our eyes and gave me the most curious feeling of being seen with the way she so intently stared without sight directly into my eyes.
Waiting on end together connected us through a shared experience of being relegated to the mercy of the clinic’s schedule. Time is important for scheduling yes, but seeing the emptiness of time as an opportunity to fill it with stories and mutual respect may be just as important. Seeking to amplify the voices of the people who walk through Taller de Jose may depend on this mutual respect that seeks to remove distorted views that people of different backgrounds have been told to believe that they are fundamentally different from each other. When, in reality, our clients have just as much wisdom to share with the Compañero, as the Compañero have experience navigating these systems. Each accompaniment is just a small pocket of time together that has larger implications after the meetings end and the clients move from being accompanied to hopefully accompanying others with their renewed sense of self-assurance.
*Client details have been changed to protect client confidentiality