Helpers Help

A Supervisor's Reflection On How Change Can Prompt Positive Action
Jamie Stablein, FCNI Supervisor
February, 9, 2022 -

March 17, 2020 was a day that forever changed the landscape of the world as I knew it…it was the day I began working from home due to the uncertainty of COVID-19. Since that day, the only thing constant in my life--personally and professionally--has been change. There is such irony in that thought! My one constant is change. 


On that day, we were all reeling and rallying…still are in some ways. I have been called to learn new ways of relating to others--a skill I thought I had nailed prior to COVID-19 touching down on our collective world. Yet the work remained the same. The baby steps and huge triumphs in my work have continued to occur, despite the global pandemic. And while there has been so much loss and change since that day, successes and goals are still being met. A youth I’ve worked with for a long time just got her first job and is excelling at it; a colleague of mine whom I supervise was accepted into Graduate school, making this work that we do her “life’s work.” The work and its resulting impact has continued. The world still moves on its same axis at the same speed, regardless of what is happening on its surface. 


Our kiddos, their families, and our staff have done so much more than simply “endure and persevere.” In many cases, they have thrived. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, the work to be done to help someone in their journey to heal and learn new life skills remains the same--it is still helping them to see the bigger picture and to make every small step ahead. And even though I miss being “together” with my peers and the kids and families we serve, in some ways, we may actually be a closer unit--a tighter team--at this moment than we were pre-Covid. We’ve figured out new ways to support each other and to “show up” for our clients. We are the helpers, afterall! And Lord knows it has not been easy (i.e., imagine trying to teach this technological dinosaur how to correctly obtain digital signatures?, but with support and patient co-workers (who are actually my treasured friends), I now routinely obtain digital signatures with nary a glitch. Ha, take that technology!).


Change has always been a driving force at FCNI because in the Human Service Industry it is encountered everywhere. Some have even joked that the “C” in FCNI should stand for change. But change is unavoidable. As an agency, we constantly face change outside of our control--change made within our community of providers, at our local, state and Federal government levels, and even within our larger American society. And for us, the only way to face change is head on; choosing to see it as a catalyst for rallying with our partners to birth new, groundbreaking programs so that we can better serve the needs of our community. While this constant cycle of change can be frustrating and exhausting, we know that it is often the spark needed to breathe new life into tired ideas, to reignite passions over complacency, and to foster collaboration and promote new partnerships. Change also helps to restore life-weary ideas like “hope,” “compassion” and “community.” 


Within change--from ripple size to tsunami size--we all rely on our mission, professionally and personally, to light the way. During these times, I also rely heavily on my peers, who are among the absolute best human beings I know, to gently help me surf the turbulent waters of change and avoid getting pulled under by the undertow of overwhelm, focusing only on the mission before me: assisting a young adult with COVID symptoms in seeking medical help, helping a foster youth develop a successful personal hygiene routine, or supporting someone I supervise in obtaining digital signatures (since I’m a self-professed expert, just don’t ask IT). 


It should be noted that while pondering the content of this very blog addressing change, I was holding and kneading a stress ball. Instead of helping me focus, said stress ball abruptly (and rudely) exploded a shaving-cream-like substance all over me and my immediate surroundings. A metaphor? Absolutely. We encounter change (ball exploding from maybe too much pressure), we adapt our course (clean up the stress ball innards), and move forward (finish my writing sans stress ball). Hopefully, we grow a little wiser in this process as well as learning how to have more grace for ourselves and others. And a bit of laughter never hurts to lighten the impact of potentially uncomfortable change. 


All of us at FCNI are the helpers--from those on the front lines working directly with kids and families, to those manning desks and cubicles, making sure all our bills are paid, every burnt out lightbulb gets changed, and every “t” gets crossed correctly. And as such, we show up, in whatever way we’re needed, however it may look, in the midst of whatever chaos may surround us. Not only are we here for those entrusted into our care, but we’re here for one another--the other helpers--supporting one another as change continues to loom on the horizon. We’re here to be the steady stream in the tumultuous sea of life, and that will never change.