Sunday, December 8, 2013

Remembrance Day

This week, at work, a fight broke out in the waiting room.  Fortunately, it didn't get physical.  Unfortunately, there were raised voices, swearing, and name calling.

Some people on staff ran into the middle of the fracas to break it up.  The entire event was over in the course of only a minute or two.  I joined another manager to speak with the instigator in a private room.  She, the instigator, wrapped up her side of the story all pretty for us, and put a bow on it.  We asked to make sure it didn't happen again.  Then I thought I was done with the issue.

It was after noon, and I was just clearing off my desk for a lunch break, when a receptionist came to me and said that one of our clients was still upset about the fight, and wanted to speak to me.  I invited the woman into my office.  I didn't think that it would take long to sort things out.  Frankly, I was hungry, the morning had been a long one, and I just wanted to get it behind me so that I could relax properly on my break.

The woman in my office had never been to our facility before.  Nice first impression we were making.  She had travelled a long way to get there.  She was a veteran of the conflict in Afghanistan.

I have been following current stories in the news media of young veterans in the U.S. and Canada: their PTSD and troubles readjusting to civilian life; the lack of adequate support systems for them; the agony their families go through trying to help them.  Never before had I sat down face to face with a real, live veteran.

I'm not going to get into the details of exactly why this situation had upset her.  Suffice it to say that it had already been a long day for her, and the conflict seemed to have stirred up memories of other injustices.  She told me "I have seen my friends die.  I have fought for this country.  How can someone speak to me like that?"  Or words to that effect.

Obviously I didn't have any answers for her.  All I could do was listen, and echo back what I was hearing to show that she was understood.  I said "I cannot imagine what you have had to endure."  I agreed that most civilians don't know how to behave or discipline themselves.  She fought back angry tears and struggled with a mighty effort to hold herself together.  She said, of the woman who insulted her, "She's lucky I didn't lose my temper.  She is just really lucky that I didn't lose my temper."

It's been a long time since I looked into the eyes of someone in such a raw state of woundedness.  She spent 20 minutes in my office, and by the end of it I was almost ready to start crying along with her.  I thanked her from the bottom of my heart for everything that she has done for our freedom.  It was difficult, and I was left shaken by the experience, but I am grateful to have had the chance to say thanks in person.  At least that one good thing came out of it.


9 comments:

DarcKnyt said...

Wow. How sad. It's a sad thing when any two people don't learn how to handle themselves, never mind in public.

I'm always so grateful to our veterans and servicemen/women. They mean a lot to us. But that's just me.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

It's sad when people can't behave in a socially acceptable manner.

Vanessa T said...

The poor thing! Clearly she's been through a lot, so be so raw.

I'm sure you were a comfort to her, Spark. *hugs* Sometimes just feeling like someone else understands and is listening is the greatest gift.

Granny Annie said...

Well I wish I knew "the rest of the story". Our veterans are taught to take it and not dish it out. They deal with some horrible insults and turn the other cheek.

Lynn said...

The veteran was a client and an employee insulted her? What?

Sparkling Red said...

The veteran was a client, yes, although she was not in uniform, so it wasn't visibly obvious that she was a veteran. The person who insulted her was another client.

LL Cool Joe said...

That's a horrid situation. I really don't like seeing arguments and fights. I'm glad you sat and listened to her for so long, I bet that was a real comfort to her. Sometimes that's all we need ..someone to listen.

Sparkling Red said...

I've heard it said that the greatest gift one can give is one's attention. Good thing too, because it's all I had to offer.

Jenski said...

Phew - I'm "glad" to know it wasn't an employee who got in an argument with a client. I'm *actually* glad you took the time with the veteran to listen.