Philadelphia residents find themselves at the city health centers for a multitude of reasons; however, it is clear that many community members come seeking help or services that they cannot provide for themselves. In my role as an Insurance Specialist, I often have to ask very intimate and personal questions in order to evaluate clients’ enrollment options and access to other benefits. I am grateful that my patients so willingly share their stories with me, as I am a new face in the community and, quite frankly, an outsider. As a temporary member of the community that our patients call home, I have been welcomed instead of turned away. Though we may not have common backgrounds, ethnicities, or cultures, I believe that we share the same core values that drive us to make the community better every day. To say that I appreciate patients’ perseverance through adversity would not do justice to the magnitude of the struggles that some individuals and their families are facing every day. However, through so many obstacles, there has been one striking theme, and it is one that is very positive.
Despite hardships, the vast majority of people I serve focus on finding happiness. Some of these struggles include, but are not limited to, finding jobs that pay sufficient wages, paying for utilities and other bills, and, of course, accessing quality healthcare. Whether it is through their religion, family, or plain mental toughness, many of my patients’ outlooks on life remain optimistic. I have found that children are particularly good at this, and their energy is contagious. Last week, I saw a mother whose young son made my day. He was nervous about getting a shot, so he asked me, with innocent eyes, if he was going to get a shot today. I explained that I was not his doctor, but whoever was would make sure to take good care of him. To take his mind off of any nervousness, we began to talk about Halloween and had a fun conversation. In the end, I think he ended up making me feel better than I made him feel.
Social work and services like the one that I am involved in can be emotionally and physically draining, since working to make a positive change can often be hindered by obstacles. It can be taxing to advocate for patients while navigating complex legal systems and policies and overcoming a lack of resources. However, these obstacles are nothing compared to what my patients deal with on a daily basis. It was so powerful that a six-year-old boy could go out of his way to make my day better, despite his adverse situation. My experience thus far with NHC has been such a strong force in shaping my perspective, especially as someone fortunate enough to grow up in the situation I did. I am so thankful that the strength of my patients is transmitted to me everyday, and I only hope that my efforts, along with a smile, can do as much good for them as they have done for me.