July 16, 2019
Have you ever been asked to describe “The Perfect Day”? Some, including this author, might contend that there is no such thing. There can be “good” days, even “great” days, but, there just might not be a “perfect” day. If one were to try to describe such a day, it would usually involve warm, beautiful weather and a body of water. One thing is pretty certain. The “perfect day” does not occur at work.
Being the Director of Veteran Services at any college or university is a tough job. This is especially true if the individual is pretty much doing it all at one of our smaller institutions such as a community college. The director must be a salesman, ambassador, marketing agent, graphic designer, supervisor, parent, mediator, detective, problem-solver, facilitator, mentor, advisor and counselor. It can be physically and emotionally draining. The days may be challenging, rewarding and fulfilling. They are probably not perfect.
Though the “perfect day” may be elusive, I believe we all have perfect moments, and we have many of those perfect moments at work! I think it’s healthy, indeed vital, to recognize and embrace those perfect moments when they occur.
Some time ago, a CH31 student came to me because he was notified that he owed the VA $1500. He was scheduled to have a meeting with his Voc Rehab counselor in a couple of days. Naturally, this was something he couldn’t afford and was quite angry. “Angry” can often be the “go-to” emotion for our veteran students when they are confused. I listened to his dilemma carefully. He withdrew from a class or two without consulting his case manager. The circumstances may have had merit, but the lack of communication did not.
I told him that he needed to “be nice” at his meeting. He was negotiating from a position of weakness. He could not “demand” the VA forgive the debt. He had to “persuade” his case manager to sympathize with his situation. “Nice” would be the order of the day.
Later that week, the student told me about the meeting. “I would find myself getting pissed off,” the student exclaimed. “Then I thought to myself, ‘Be nice’ and I didn’t let it show.” The bottom line is that veteran got everything he asked for. His debt was eliminated.
The veteran said to me, “Nice works! I’m going to use it more often!” That was a perfect moment. I drew upon a lifetime of experience to offer some words of advice and it worked! It worked in this situation, and perhaps, it will work for the veteran in future situations.
Another time, a veteran came to me rather reluctantly because she “knew” I couldn’t help. It was clear that this veteran, who had no Post 911 benefits left, could qualify for Voc Rehab with some assistance and guidance. It was also clear that this veteran was a future superstar! I managed to persuade her to contact a particularly kind and helpful VA Transition Care Management individual. With a little gentle prodding here and there, she took all the necessary steps. Ultimately, she was approved through CH31 to pursue her Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she came into the office and excitedly told me so, it was another perfect moment.
Rarely, if ever, do we do all the steps necessary to change a veteran’s life. But, quite often, we initiate, introduce, persuade and/or facilitate. That is frequently the catalyst necessary for the veteran to achieve a significant personal or professional milestone. These are the perfect moments. I believe we need to recognize them, embrace them and (briefly) rejoice in them. They are why we do what we do.
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