(2) The Importance of Understanding

One of the most important things I’ve learned at Brandeis is understanding. Understanding is the ability to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. It’s the ability to put aside superficial differences and see another point of view. At Brandeis, I interact with many people from different walks of life. To succeed, you have to be able to communicate with diverse groups of people and be able to see the world from their perspective to gain a better understanding of where they are coming from. When someone disagrees with you or shuts down, it can be easy to respond with anger or become frustrated, but sometimes it’s best to step back and reorient yourself by looking at the situation from the other person’s perspective. By doing that, it is possible to find common ground and move towards agreement.

In order to move toward a caring and harmonious society, we have to be able to understand one another and practice kindness and compassion. This is why understanding is something that I always have in mind when approaching my work with Someone Cares. As a case management intern, I interact with clients from many different walks of life. Most clients I work with come from backgrounds that are very different than mine. Often they come from extreme poverty, have debilitating mental health issues, or were introduced to street drugs at a very young age. I have to be able to understand them to help them reach the goals they set for themselves regarding their recovery. 

Someone Cares Atlanta is built on empathy and understanding. It was created to serve populations who have trouble accessing essential resources, including clients who are queer, trans, HIV positive, homeless, sex workers, and/or struggle with substance abuse issues. Many of these population groups have stigmas attached, which can make it hard for them to receive the services and help they need in a compassionate and understanding environment. Someone Cares staff members take time to understand how their client’s background affects them, while also recognizing their individuality. Working and learning in this environment has enabled me to use the patience and understanding that I developed as a Brandeis student. 

Many clients I interact with are in substance abuse therapy and sometimes need assistance with tasks that seem simple to me. For example, many clients struggle with technology literacy and need help with signing into their Gmail or figuring out how to make video calls. This requires me to be patient and understand that not everyone has the same level of familiarity as I do with technology. This also applies to important things like helping them access food or housing. Some clients just need to be assisted in looking for resources and are self-sufficient once pointed in the right direction, while others need you to sit with them and walk through the whole process. My experience at Someone Cares has made me better equipped to recognize and respect the differences in people.