by Mary LaVigne
In reflecting on my first months here at Taller de José, I have learned so much about what accompaniment means, and how it looks in our current context. From Zoom training and webinars to my first appointment and in-person accompaniment, I have been reminded of one important thing. Day by day. That is the best way to approach the newness and uncertainty that 2020 has brought. I enjoy looking ahead to the future and anticipating what is to come, but my time here has shown me the beauty of staying present. There is a quote I love by my favorite poet and artist that reads:
“Let today be the day you breathe deep and live courageously. Let today be the day you remember that to pursue courage is to leave behind a pursuit of perfection or the need to get it all right. To pursue courage is to approach the day with an open heart that says, “I am here to learn whatever it is I am meant to learn. I am here to grow how I am meant to grow. No matter what is unknown.” -Morgan Harper Nichols
There are times I catch myself holding too tight to perfection, but there are also times of growth and connection to outweigh them. I have found myself making connections with my fellow Compañerxs, with clients, and between client needs and resources and partner organizations in the community. Even though some days it all still seems so new, I’ve felt supported since I started here. It is so inspiring to see the partner organizations and people committed to making sure no one feels overlooked, unheard, or isolated during this time. I am so grateful to be a part of this work.
One of the most life-giving experiences I’ve had thus far has been interacting with clients. With so much taking place over phones and behind screens (and plexiglass), I was worried I wouldn’t be able to experience accompaniment in an authentic way. However, I was wrong. Phone calls, to me, have become more than filling out forms and providing information. They are spaces to listen, to check-in, and to share in kind greetings and well wishes. COVID-19 has disrupted just about every area of daily life, but with every client I’ve been privileged to meet, I’ve been amazed by their faith, gratitude, and, especially, their patience with me as I make mistakes and work to improve my Spanish.
A particular appointment with a client stands out to me. In early September, I met with a client in person for the first time. Due to the pandemic, Taller de José is only meeting with clients in person on a case-by-case basis. The client had a scheduled Zoom court hearing in the morning, and due to technology barriers and the fact that the client was hard of hearing, he preferred someone to assist him in person. I was incredibly nervous as it was not only my first in-person appointment, but also my first time navigating the court system (in a virtual model). From the moment I introduced myself to the client, he extended patience towards me, and I hope to have reciprocated the same as I used a white board to aid in communicating with him. The client and I logged into Zoom, only to find out his hearing had been postponed until the spring. I wasn’t sure how to react, but the client wasn’t frustrated or upset. He simply said he will hold on to all of his documents and be ready for the new date. He helped to remind me that in our new reality, it is especially important to be open to changes, delays, and even reschedules to months later. Sure, we had our Zoom all set up, and audio figured out, and white board ready. But I also had the opportunity of meeting him, and I was able to learn more about him, and just allow him and I to be present to one another for that short time.
That morning did not go as planned, and I quickly had to let go of expectations, but the meeting filled me with enough joy to carry me through the day. Basic human interaction without a computer screen or phone in-between was a blessing that September day. In this new role as a Compañera, I notice myself growing, pursuing courage and finding grace in the imperfections. I am appreciative of the people who I have gotten to walk alongside, and I am hopeful for more opportunities to experience accompaniment in all the days ahead.