I turned fifty recently and I am trying to write a list of fifty things I have learned over the past fifty years. It’s not as easy as I thought. I have only got 28 so far so it’s a work in progress.
One of the things I just added to the list reminded me of an experience I had that taught me a very important lesson. It really can pay off handsomely to be nice to everyone as I found out.
I had just arrived in a new town after my divorce. The marriage break-up and my move put an end to my master’s degree studies. The university in my new town did not offer masters degrees in psychology so I thought that was the end of my hopes of becoming a registered psychologist.
To earn a living I took a job caring for disabled adults in a group home. I got on well with the residents and all the other workers because I always tried to treat everyone the way I would want them to treat me.
One day a new worker joined the team. She was opinionated, strong willed, totally inexperienced but absolutely certain she knew better than the rest of us how to deal with the residents. They quickly grew to hate her and doing a shift with her became an absolute nightmare. The residents would get angry and become very hard to handle whenever she was there.
The other workers turned against her one by one and it wasn’t long at all before they started complaining about her. They refused to do shifts with her and began setting her up for failure to try and get rid of her. They would fail to tell her she was supposed to do things or fan the flames of the residents dislike so they would play up even worse when she came on. They did everything they could to try and get her sacked.
I understood how my co-workers felt. She had an absolute genius for saying the wrong thing and offending people but my instincts told me she was not malicious. I felt she was just socially inept so, when she said offensive things to me, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and refused to take offense.
I took the time to try and get to know her and, when I did, I could see her heart was in the right place. I refused to participate in negative talk about her and just said I thought her heart was in the right place when other workers complained to me about her. I accepted shifts with her and took action to reduce her contact with the resident who hated her the most and I earned her gratitude for making her shifts easier by doing that.
It was only a matter of time, of course, before things fell apart. The resident who hated her the most got worse and worse in his behaviour and, finally, he went after her and bit her quite savagely.
When I got to work after the incident I was told she had been sacked for being the cause of too many incidents with this resident. Time passed and I forgot about her.
One day a job as a counsellor was advertised and, since they did not require much experience, I applied for it. I was invited to an interview and you can imagine my surprise to find this woman there. It turned out she was the volunteer president of the board!
She was absolutely delighted to see me and made the interview into a cosy catch-up between friends. Several times she intervened when I was stuck for an answer and said something to clue me in as to what answer they were looking for. She told me weeks later that she decided, as soon as she saw my name on the application, that I would get the job.
The strong willed determination that served her so badly in the other job served me extremely well when she bulldozed the rest of the panel into selecting me for the job. I had the best qualifications but I had the least experience. Her personal knowledge of me led to her being able to convince them I had what it took to do the job despite my inexperience.
So I got my first job as a counsellor thanks to her but she was not finished yet.
She wanted me to become a registered psychologist so she badgered my supervisor into pushing me to apply for registration via the two years supervised practice channel. She also talked my supervisor into volunteering to supervise me, free of charge, for that.
When I got that job I had no confidence at all in myself or my abilities. There is no way I would ever have tried to get qualified to practice as a psychologist. It was her determination, her faith in my sterling qualities, her belief that she knew best that paved the way for me to become registered.
Once she got me registered she saw to it the organization paid for me to attend all sorts of training courses resulting in a long list of additional qualifications.
Her final touch on my life was to argue the board into giving me the position of Director of Counselling Services when my supervisor retired.
When I met her she seemed like a nobody and a very annoying, offensive, one at that but I treated her as I would have liked to be treated. I treated her well because I am a Christian and that’s what God wants me to do. I didn’t expect her to ever be able to do anything for me in return.
If I had treated her like the nobody she seemed to be I would have missed out on a whole new, better, direction for my life. That “nobody” became my mentor and she did the job of mentoring me exceptionally well!
At no time did I ever expect my reward for doing unto others as I would have them do unto me would be a well paid job followed by a career and a very long string of qualifications to add to my resume!