In this week’s episode of Akimbo, Seth Godin’s podcast, he eloquently debunks the myth of the average person. I love that this episode is titled, “I See You.” Point by point, Mr. Godin goes through several scenarios where systems try to force us into behaving all the same or being all the same, but in fact, we are all individuals, made better by systems that are able to see us and therefore become specialized. You may remember I have been inspired to reflect on and riff off Seth’s work before.
There are two places in my work recently where I notice this need to be particularly responsive to people exactly where they are.
First, as I travel the state of Georgia and sit to have conversations with people with developmental disabilities and their families/caregivers through the GCDD Story Collection Project, I’ve come to see how important it is for folks to have access to the services they need, as they’d like to access them. After the 1980s when we emptied out state mental health institutions, Medicaid waivers were supposed to provide individualized supports to individuals with disabilities. If you need job coaching, rides to work, and physical therapy, you should have that so that you can live independently. If you need nursing support and a day program, that’s what you’re supposed to get. I’m learning that it’s not always that easy. When the system works, it works, but just barely. The application process is incredibly laborious. You practically need a masters in social work just to fill out the paper work. There are 9000 people waiting for services in Georgia alone. Still, at the end of the day, ideally people are supposed to be met where their need is.
The second place where Mr. Godin’s reminder of highly individualized service comes to play for me is in my one-on-one story coaching. There’s just no formulaic way to work with a person who comes to my door looking to work on their stories. I have people who come because they want to reorganize and reframe their past, and I have people who want to re-vision and move toward a new possible future. I have people who are developing performances. In one week, I had consecutive visits from people–
…One woman who has OCD and made the ultimate decision not to have children. She pulls out a babydoll in her performance and says “will someone please take this baby for me?”
…The next woman is a doula in the Black community, has 5 children of her own, and is developing many stories for a performance about birth from her own, to her children’s, to the ones she’s coached.
While I may have a fundamental set of techniques I draw from, knowing day-to-day what we’re going to do is less of a curriculum and more like a dance. I always start with the question, “What do you want to work on today?” It goes back to that notion of individualized supports.
If we are seen and heard and met exactly where we are at,
we all get what we need.
Hopefully when we need or want it.
In a more than average way.