One night last month when I was teaching yoga at the Easton YMCA, I spotted a woman who had been taking my class for the past few months. She always came to the class late and left early. I am often surprised when I see her return to the class because I am never sure she is enjoying the experience. But this evening was different.
As I was about to start class, she approached me. She took my hand and shared that she had noticed me in the building working with young adults with disabilities. I am a Senior Program Coordinator for JF&CS Pathways to Employment, a program helping people with disabilities gain the skills needed to be independent and successful at work. I am often at the Easton YMCA providing coaching for the Pathways to Employment participants who volunteer there. She told me, "I see you come in with your group and I think that they are amazing. I think you are amazing. I have a son with special needs that is in a home." The woman started to cry. "I feel so guilty that I cannot care for him by myself, even though I want to. I hope that the staff at his house cares as much as you do. I hope that the staff encourages my son like you encourage your group. I watch you, and you are tough on the participants: I heard the gentleman you work with who cannot see tell you ‘This is hard.' And I remember you said, ‘Yes, life can be tough but you are tougher.'" She continued, sharing, "I feel people are too easy on my son or too hard or just do not care. I watch how you work and how your participants work when they're volunteering and hope for that for my son."
I was so touched and grateful she took the time to share this with me. It was an incredible reminder that it is important to remember that you do not know, at any given time, who is watching you. You do not always know the impact you are having on your participants and on the community at large. Tasks are never mundane or repetitive. They are important because they are teaching tools for everyone who is watching.
Heidi joined the Pathways for Employment team in August 2015. She graduated from Eastern Nazarene College in 1991 with a bachelor's degree in social work. She has worked with children, teens, adults, and seniors with mental illness at Riverside Community Care, Community Counseling of Bristol County, and DOVE Battered Women's Shelter. She also has extensive experience working with people with substance abuse issues. Heidi has also started programs in middle and high schools to help build better body awareness and positive body image. She is a Reiki master and has taught yoga and wellness programs for more than 25 years in schools, private organizations, and companies. In her spare time she loves cooking, hiking, and biking.