Experience is our teacher
May 11, 2016 3rd Space

Experience is our teacher

Published 11 May 2016

My office looks out over our two courtyards. One afternoon last week, whilst having a stretch in between tasks, I stood at my window and looked out. I do this often, just observing and watching people interact. On that afternoon I spotted a group of men meticulously rolling cigarettes. They were having a good gas bag and a laugh and then I spotted them handing around what looked like an enormous joint. Given we have a no drugs and no alcohol policy and Uncle Col our security officer was otherwise engaged, I decided to take a stroll down to take a closer look.

As I wandered down the ramp to where they were sitting they called out “Hi Boss”. I used to feel uncomfortable about people calling me that but someone started doing it and I haven’t been able to shake it. It has become a term of endearment so I roll with it.

I sat down to find that they had managed to procure some tobacco, the likes of which is used in cigars. Using a carefully constructed wrapper of “Tally Ho” cigarette papers they had proudly made their own Cuban cigar. “Smell that Boss! Isn’t it sweet?” they said as they handed the enormous homemade cigar to me. I took a big sniff and was immediately transported back to my childhood. My father, a heavy smoker of cigarettes, pipes and cigars, used to lift me up into his arms, his tweed jacket scratchy against my legs and his skin smelling of tobacco. As a child I learned to love the smell of tobacco on his skin, because what better place was there than being high on your Dad’s shoulders or tucked neatly onto his hip. I shared my memory with the group and this led them to share their own.

I wandered inside to retrieve something from the kitchen and as I exited, one of the group who was making a cuppa asked me. “How is everything going Boss? How is the Club going?” I answered by telling him I thought it was going ok, but that I always wanted to be doing more and never quite felt we had reached the place we wanted to be at. He said to me “What would that take Boss? To be able to do everything you want to do here.” I thought for a moment and then answered him really honestly. “Money! Money is what it would take.” I thought of telling him time, but to be honest, money buys time in the form of extra staff so I just thought I would tell the truth. He told me he was going to have a think about that and whether he could find a way to help.

What did I learn from that conversation? I learned that I have been missing an opportunity. Our visitor had great listening skills and honed in on what I said. I can’t tell you how often one of our visitors asks me how the centre is going? I’ve not used the opportunity to ask them…”why do you ask?……or…. how do you think it’s going?” Note to self. Next time someone asks put on my big listening ears.

I’ve been reminded that it is our responsibility as individuals to ask for what we need. It doesn’t matter whether we are at work, in the community or with our families and friends. People cannot read our minds. People do not know what our own individual story is. No-one else is responsible for making us happy, content, motivated, financially secure, clean and sober, housed or healthy. Where the magic happens is when you take accountability for your own needs and ask someone to meet you halfway. It’s how we work with our visitors, and its the recipe for success.