Today I said no to approximately 30 people.
Do you have a bus pass? No.
Can I leave my backpack here overnight? No.
Can you give me a ride to the pharmacy? No.
Can I use the staff bathroom upstairs? No.
Can I use your computer? No.
Saying no is hard for me because I’m a gullible people pleaser with terrible boundaries and even worse self-advocacy. If there ever was a boot camp for all the above, however, it’s my office at 707 West Jones Street.
We serve dozens of people every day, each of whom carries many a burden and even more daily needs.
I could drop everything I’m doing to drive someone to the pharmacy. I could break the rules and cause confusion by granting one-time staff bathroom privileges. I could do a lot of things that a person wants me to do, but I’m not a fairy godmother. I don’t park my WalMart jeans in my swivel chair for eight hours a day to grant wishes that bruise boundaries and test authority.
I have to be okay with saying no, which means that in a particular situation I am not willing to help someone who is homeless. That feeling will never cease to be one of failure. So some days I go home feeling like a tail-less Eeyore.
But you know what? Granting wishes of immediate gratification and poor forethought and planning won’t solve anyone’s problems. If anything, doing so creates more problems for me.
Sara, when I start going to recovery meetings, will you come with me? Yes.
Sara, I’m feeling depressed… can I talk to you? Yes.
Sara, I don’t understand this letter. Can you help me read it? Yes.
Sara, will you go with me to a scary doctor’s appointment? Yes.
Sara, can you help me with my G.E.D. writing homework? Yes.
Pending my fear of heights, I would like to shout from the roof tops, YES, you can sit on the sparkly spray painted chair in my office and tell me how your mom hates you and that you haven’t seen your daughter in 10 years. YES, I will show up with bells on at your recovery meeting because I am infinitely proud of you.
YES, let’s sit down and look over your letter. I know the words can be confusing and it’s okay that you need help. YES, let’s go to the doctor’s appointment together. We will definitely have ice cream after.
So, no, you can’t use the staff bathroom and you can’t stash your backpack in my office over night. And I’m sorry. But I will listen to you until your butt goes numb on the sparkly chair, and we will work on your G.E.D. essay until you can write an essay better than I can.
We will go to all your medical appointments together, blasting Pink in the car because we both love her, and then we’ll take some extra quiet time at the froyo place to decompress.
I’m not trying to like anyone. I’m trying to love everyone, and sometimes that means saying no.