Friday, September 26, 2008

Scenario #12: What did she want to say?

I don't know if this scenario will make any sense at all to any of you. That is, since it doesn't even make sense to me. If it makes sense to you, please, tell me what I missed!

We sat down with her to ask her about her experience working with needy woman. She is a social worker. She told us a bit about her educational and professional background, then a bit about the work she does now.

Then she told us a heart-wrenching story of one of her clients. We could tell that the young social worker was using her conversation with us to process out loud what she'd experienced with this woman. "Her house was so small, small doesn't even describe it. No, it was smaller than small. And it was dirty, the walls were moldy, ohhhhh... She has four children. How old are they? Let me think. Oh, she has a little girl who can't be more than four years old!... Can you believe it? Her husband beat her on the very first day they were married! The very first day..." As she sat across from us, a modestly dressed very young-looking woman with too much eye makeup, she looked almost like she wanted to cry but didn't know how to. No tears came to her eyes, just more information out of her mouth.

We talked quite a bit about her client's situation, about a woman whom she feels completely incapable of helping because the only thing that would really help her would be to leave her husband. But the woman has said that she would kill herself before she considered leaving her husband. And she has in fact considered killing herself. So the social worker is stuck and scared that any wrong move will result in the woman's death.

Once there was nothing left to say about that woman, we got up to end the conversation, but she kept talking. She offered to tell us another story, but we declined for the sake of time. Then she started talking about all the other NGOs who have visited their centres and all the other representatives of organistations that she has met.

Then we asked her a bit about herself and she told us of some difficult things she experienced during her high school years. But, she said, she got over it and is now doing ok. And she really seemed at peace about her own situation. Perhaps she feels her story pales in comparison with those of the people she meets in her current job.

We gestured again to leave, but we asked her one last question: had she had on-the-job training? This started yet another extended conversation about how she had been taken advantage in her current job, and her salary had been withheld for several months under the guise of 'training'. She talked about this situation with some bitterness and we listened as sympathetically as we could, but we couldn't help worrying about the time.

By this point I realised there was something she wanted to say. Something she was anxious to tell us. She wasn't letting the conversation end because she was desperate for it to continue. But I'd run out of questions to ask! I felt we'd already talked to her about so much more than we'd intended, and asked her much more personal questions than she might have expected. The conversation ended because I didn't know where to take it, so the clock won and we left for our next appointment. What was the magic question that would have allowed her to say what was really on her mind?

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