Posts Tagged ‘advocate’

I am truly lucky. I have a job, again. My new position allows me to help people who are experiencing frustration with bureaucracy. Because I have been a person who has experienced so much of this type of difficulty myself, when I say, “I understand,” the words, I trust, never sound hollow. Sometimes I, too, have been very desperate – trying to find educational help for a relative; navigating the mental health system with a friend at his lowest; a life and death situation medically; a financial crunch as a young widow with two small children to support; victimized by a supposed “support” system for people with disabilities; suffered abuse as a disabled person in a medical institution…

Many times people have nowhere to turn or have run out of people to turn to because their emotions run high. How fortunate I am to have some training (thank you Selma Wasserman) and skills to assist people in a calm, soothing, rational manner. When people feel heard, they feel trust. With trust they can often move forward through difficulties with more strength. Empathetic responses can be learned. With practice they come naturally. Because the true passion for social justice comes both from my upbringing and my DNA, these learned responses are most fitting with my own character when crisis is in the voice of another human being.

I also find myself as advisor to friends and family. It is these same calm yet rational listening skills that are so helpful. I set firm limits on my time, but do so with kindness and care. No one, I hope, ever feels shut out by the limits. On the contrary, it is my hope that the limits keep me from being overburdened, yet also empower the individual to find some applicable options and take actions from our interactions.

BackgroundPearls3_1I write this after an interaction with a colleague for whom I have great admiration and respect. He is dealing with a person who has a particularly difficult personality. We had several conversations yesterday – some at work. I had to limit the time we spoke and yet my friend was very anxious to debrief with me and find some solutions to this terrible problem. I also found an email when I arrived home. Eliminating names, this is the gist of the content – I wanted to capture the pearls of my words, just in case they come in handy again!

“Don’t worry about the difficult person. He is not worth the stress. Stress is bad for your health. You need to stay healthy for your family.

This difficult person is poison to you. Don’t drink in his words. Poison is safe in a bottle – to be observed but never ingested.

My friend, there is always something good from every experience. Think of this is an opportunity. Every problem is just an opportunity in disguise. It is finding the opportunity that is sometimes the puzzle.

Enjoy life’s beauty.  Life is short.”

This morning he found his solution. Embedded in his email to me were some of these pearls.

Helping others is gratifying. We both gained happiness from our interaction.

Hello, neighbours…

It is a privilege to have an opportunity to stand before you this evening, once again to offer to serve you as a Councillor in the Village of Anmore. Many of you have come to know that I am a passionate advocate…for individuals, for the environment, for sustainability, for the ARTS, for this Village and for the Tri-City region.

There is no us and them. That is an illusion. There are only people – some with a more generous spirit than others. This can be observed in small, every-day behaviours. You can see it in how they interact with a child or with nature. You can see it in the things they choose to do with their time. When you choose someone to lead your country or your province or your village, what do you want? A kind person? An honest person? A person who does not just promise to do her best but shows it every day? A person who demonstrates true kindness of spirit? A person with a strong work ethic? A person who can suspend judgment?  A person who can truly listen and does so? A person who will not be bullied? I offer you these, my good qualities – and more because I KNOW…

Such a person will bring to the COUNCIL table your interests, always. You can trust that selfishness, greed and power will not be on MY agenda.

It is certainly helpful if your leader can understand easily the workings of government, and I have studied hard over the years. Yet I put it to you: it is equally important to bring questions to the table.

The candidates here before you this evening have worked hard – to promise you the same promises I have seen on campaign literature over the last three elections. If you peruse my handouts, mail-outs and websites, you will see that financial accountability, environmental protection and community planning are important to me as well. The difference I can offer you – is my community record of committee work, consensus-building and advocacy.

I am here for you –  and I am here for Anmore. On election day, vote for ELAINE WILLIS.

 

It is not an easy decision to run for Council in Anmore. It is a tiny municipality. There are currently about 1400 voters. Three years ago there were approximately 1200 voters which actually demonstrates the growth we are experiencing, and one of the reasons I decided I must, once again, offer to serve. From 2001 to 2006 there was a 32.8% population increase, and this upward population pressure continues. With a “Rural” designation from Metro Vancouver and an outdated, incomplete Official Community Plan with a firm one acre minimum lot size, the village is evolving via the drift rather than plan mechanism that is created by development pressures. Land values continue to soar and conflict between development and sustainability have come to the fore.

What to do about it? Clearly deflecting attention from it with conflict will not solve the problem. Communication, consensus-building and judicious planning are required to create sustainable development. The Official Community Plan must be revised and adhered to. We must also work effectively with our neighbours. Anmore does not exist in a vacuum. The region of the Tri-Cities shares air and watersheds, we share roadways, transportation and infrastructure. We share services. Working within this small region is as important as working with the greater region of Metro Vancouver in planning and decision making and I pledge to keep communication key for shared resources and services. Already I have inserted myself into committees relating to hospital services, watershed management, social services and the arts in the Tri-Cities as I believe so strongly in their importance.

So, a vote for me is a vote for communication, for dialogue, and for advocacy for our village and our region. I promise to stand for and maintain open government, to be responsive to the voices of individuals and to groups. Sustainable development is not rampant development; we need careful planning to keep Anmore beautiful, green and livable.  I have no hidden agenda. My life for the past several years has been devoted to advocacy. I offer that now in service as your Anmore Councillor. Vote for Elaine Willis on November 19th.

I returned from a weekend at the SEP (Salmonid Enhancement Conference) in Campbell River delighted to have taken a ferry and visited Vancouver Island for the first time this century. My friend, Ruth, who reminded me it was the first time this millenium, is constantly running into former students who shout after her, “Mrs. Foster, Mrs. Foster, remember me!!!”

I was delighted to find the following response to an older BLOG POST when I arrived home; more than heartwarming, it verified the theme of a recent post about advocacy. By choosing to become a teacher, I chose to be an advocate.When I entered teaching, I had no idea it would be a good fit or my natural calling, but I am lucky these things were true. To have a positive impact on anyone’s life is really all one can hope for…

Mikki, in my mind’s eye, you are still that young girl. Yet your writing is clearly that of an articulate, strong, young woman. The impact of your few words lived on for days…still does. I have met many former students, but none that has shared this experience of being part of the “disabled community”. My mother (who can’t seem to grasp that I am 57 years old) constantly asks when I am going to write and publish a book – she so believes my writing skills to be a marketable talent. Somehow, finally, I understand how she feels. Your ability to write well, to express your thoughts with a few powerful words is so apparent. Impactful… Delightful… I think that might be a bit of pride…like what my mother tries to express to me.

Mikki (Cowling) Chartier said May 22, 2011

Elaine Willis,

You were my 3rd and 4th grade teacher back in the 1980s at Grosvenor Road Elementary School. After all these years and wondering what’s happening today, I found your blog. You are a gifted teacher, who showed far more compassion to a very shy and anxious disabled child than our soulless system has demonstrated to you. I was stunned to find out you developed ataxia and chemical sensitivities, but from your blog and The Hindsight Years, it’s clear you haven’t let it stop you.

It was a privilege to have had such a wonderful human being as a teacher. You valued each and every student as individuals, genuinely cared about us and what we were learning. Nearly thirty years on, I still remember how you read stories to the class and didn’t underestimate our ability to understand the themes. How you played “Clouds”–Both Sides Now–by Anne Murray. I remember learning about technology in the computer lab with the Apple ][ and when you took the class on a field trip where we learned about computer programming at a real university! You made the experience magical to a nine year old child who never forgot your kindness, passion for teaching, and your patience.

I just wanted to say thank you.

I suppose being a teacher is being an advocate. One advocates for one’s students. We try to empower them in a system that denies rights to minors. We give them skills and confidence…anything we can to help them advocate for themselves but when they cannot we step in for them, fierce as mother bears.

And then there was the women’s movement. The supposed “third wave of feminism” taught me to challenge political structure and power holders while taking backup people with me. A lone voice is not as effective as the voice with many backers.

Ultimately, I became an advocate because in my greatest time of need, some people stepped (no, they wheeled) forward into my life and intervened, when a system powerful enough to put me in a nursing home for the crime of being disabled, chemically sensitive, and vocal threatened my freedom and my survival.

Paul Gauthier wheeled into my life and assured me that I was not being unreasonable when I requested scent-free care workers, or notice before nurse administrators arrived in my home. “If they tell you you’re being difficult,” he told me, “It just means you’re still alive.” How right he was. And how close I came to that precipice. When an institution, a system, a dangerous machine has control over your life…even those of us who are strong-willed and intelligent can be swept away. But thanks to that young man, and another wheeled advocate from the BC Paraplegic Association, Norman Haw, all that conspired to sweep me away failed. I emerged, stronger, independent, flourished…in control of my own life and care. So what else can I do but help others? And since I am not ALLOWED to work for pay, it is with pleasure that I try to help others navigate the medical system, or, as in my case, not be swallowed by it.

And as I give workshops, I often pay tribute to Paul without using his name. As it happens I was giving a workshop to a group of Medical Office Assistants on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and who was the organizer? Paul’s mother-in-law. She recognized the man I described from his good deeds, methinks…and she inquired if I knew her son-in-law. It’s a small world.

And I may not have thanked you in this decade, Mr. Gauthier, so thank you, once again!