It is another week at the hospital. I walked through the revolving doors and arrived at our desk. As usual, I wrote down the client’s name from the referral sheet and proceeded to her room. I knocked and opened the door softly. Lying on the bed was this young woman. Next to her bed were her boyfriend, her brother, and her new born daughter, Jakiaya.
I began by introducing myself that I am from Health Leads, a non profit organization housed in the University of Maryland Medical Center; that I obtained their information from the social worker, Catherine, and I am here to help them with appropriate resources they need after birth. The client nodded her head and she seemed rather sedated. While I was speaking, her brother left and her boyfriend stared directly at the TV.
Next, I took out my pen and started with my intake, that is, gathering as much as information about her as possible. One difficulty Health Leads volunteers face at the hospital is losing contact with clients once they leave the hospital. Therefore, I must obtain all her information now. I asked her questions by following the categories on the intake sheet.
“Your name please”
“Your date of birth please”
“February 1st, 1992”
I paused. Suddenly my hand became numb, unable to maneuver the pen in my hand. I tried hard to resist the temptation to look at her face. I tried hard to hide the expression on my face. I tried hard to not judge her; all to no avail. My widened eyes, awkward standing, and deep breathes definitely betrayed me. Yet, she, still lying in the same position, still looking rather sedated, still talking to me with her chapped mouth, did not notice the changes in me. Yet, in my head, I am screaming “how could this be? She is younger than me! She has a day old daughter. She is still in school! Why does she have to confirm to the stereotypes I see on TV?!” By no means was I disappointed at her. I was disappointed at myself; for judging her, for not giving her a second chance. The fact her boyfriend was younger than me did not help either. I proceeded to finish the entire intake sheet and promised her that I would be back in a bit to give her appropriate paper works.
That two minute work from her room back to my desk seemed like an eternity. I cannot help but wondering whether or not she saw my reaction to her answer. As I thought more of it, I became increasingly disappointed at myself. Yes she is younger than me. Yes she already has a child. Yes she is still in school. Yes she is the stereotype I see on TV. So what? Did I not promise myself that I will not judge. Did I not learn from Ms. Johnson last week that stereotype has its basis but not everyone is like that? Most importantly that is why I am here: to serve urban impoverished and marginalized women in Baltimore City. Even more so, she trusted me! I feel so guilty. It makes me feel sick to the stomach even just thinking about it. She trusted me with her whole heart. She entrusted me her needs and her new born. She gave me her personal information. For God’s sake she gave me her social security number! Never for a second did she hesitate to give me her personal information, yet I am the one who is making judgments. If she does not have a problem, then why should I, an outsider?
This incidence reminded me of the Shakespearean poem, My Mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun. Just like the speaker in the poem, my client is not trying to hide anything or attempting make herself ought to be someone whom she is not. She is brutally honest, sincere, and open about her life. I, on the other hand, look like the other men in the poem. I tried to cover up for the so called mistake in her life, even though she has absolutely no problem with it. She accepts her life and I, as an outsider, must also do so. It is only when I can overcome my judgment of her that I may proceed to help her. I said I would not judge anyone, yet I broke my own promise. I feel small in front of her even though I am two years older than her. She may have to receive resource information from me. But I have so much to learn from her.