I'm an assistant manager of a day program for adults with disabilities. My boss and I manage a group of 100 or so clients and 40 or so staff, who all come to 1 building with 6 classrooms, 5 days per week. The surprising thing is, there are many days where it isn't total chaos! There are days where we kind of run like a well-oiled machine, where clients and staff alike are mostly compliant and positive and we manage this lovely little world full of amazing people.
And then there are days like today.
I'm currently wearing two hats: my assistant manager hat, which I wear while overseeing programming for the whole building, and a room supervisor hat, which I wear while I oversee one classroom more directly until we hire someone to fill a vacant spot. Today my assistant manager hat sat comfortably on my assistant manager desk, where I usually work from and have a little bit of quiet and peace, and many like-minded peers in neighboring cubicles. I didn't get to wear that hat at all. I wore the other hat all day long, and dove head-first into what felt like total chaos, with 3-4 of the normal 9 staff in that room absent all day. I needed to direct staff who have grown accustomed to not receiving or responding to direction, and I needed to motivate clients who haven't had fresh ideas introduced in quite some time, and I needed to somehow ensure that everyone got to eat and use the restroom throughout the day, with fewer hands on deck than normal.
There were some lovely little moments - like taking one guy for a walk in gorgeous weather, and hearing him proclaim afterwards, "I took a walk with Krista! Hey, I took a walk with Krista!" And busting out a plastic bowling pin set and letting some of the guys take turns rolling a beach ball at them, and seeing how excited they were to do something so simple and yet new-to-them.
But then there were other moments. Within a short period this afternoon, we had one client who was listening to her High School Musical 3 cd in headphones, and singing so loud that it was giving another client a headache and he was storming around, cursing and hitting things. Meanwhile another client had stolen my cellphone and wouldn't give it back, and when I took him for a walk to see if that would help his mood, he laid down on a bench and refused to get up, after also trying to eat a rock. Meanwhile another client had left the room and wouldn't come back until we gave him a magazine, which I didn't have available at the moment. Meanwhile the other client who'd been singing loud, stormed out of the room and out the back door. When I caught up to her, she was by another client who was saying "She spit on my neck," and although he was referring to someone else, she and I both thought he was talking about her, so she was angry at the false allegation and I was reprimanding her for improper behavior before I realized the misunderstanding, which understandably made her even more upset.
And in the midst of it all, I was overwhelmed not just by the immediate chaos, but by the larger picture of how desperately I want to train our staff and train them well, how many big picture changes I want to make. I was also overwhelmed by the tremendous number of tasks, and of people, that I've neglected over the past several days as I try to tackle this room specifically. And a computer with a bunch of open files and a desk covered with many piles of paper both pointed to the fact that even the tasks I was finally able to start were unable to be completed. And at the end of the day, I learned sad news that adds to a long list of sad stories that have affected the people I work for and with in recent months.
I'd love to say that my heart was full of contentedness and joy and thankfulness as I calmly spoke truth to myself about who my God is amid the chaos. Actually, my heart was a jumbled mess and I was irritable and trying desperately to not take it out on the many people who crossed my path. But some truth did squeeze its way in there as I thought about a few key things:
1) My God is HUGE! The cares and needs and misbehaviors of 140 people (yes, staff have poor behavior too) are, to me, too much to handle today. They might not be too much to handle tomorrow, but today they are. God cares for infinitely more people with infinitely more success and without even a hint of sin in His responses to their many offenses against him. And where the burden of my own sadness and the sadness of people I love feels too heavy for me, He bears infinitely more burdens with no complaint. He is truly unlike me.
2) I face big, hard days, often. I MUST be in God's word each morning, because the stakes are high. If I have any hope of handling a day like today in a way that honors Jesus, I had better spend some time with Him before I enter the battlefield.
And so, speaking of that, I need to go to bed. Because tomorrow, I need to be up in time to read, and to pray,....and to stop for some really good coffee before Wednesday begins!