Changing of the Guard

My job is stressful.

Let me rephrase that: my job is one of the most challenging, frustrating and draining things I have ever engaged in.

For those that don’t know (and to myself ten years from now if you forget what you used to do and are now looking back; hi future me!) I work at a group home for the chronically impaired mentally ill. This means primarily the inability to live on one’s own due to severe disorders such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective, bipolar, PTSD and various others.

My goal, as the Senior Residential Technician, is to work alongside the part-time technicians and the Rehabilitation Specialists to teach our clients life skills. These include, but are not limited to; cooking, cleaning, personal hygiene, legal services, medical services, coping and learning to enjoy life again. In summary, I work with up to ten grown adults at any given time, doing my best to teach them how to live life well. Fitting, no?

Here I am at only 23 years of age, feeling a lot like Moses some days. “Who am I” that I should teach these men and women, most of whom have lived much longer than I, how to live their lives well? In all reality, I’m still trying to figure it out myself. Life is hard, even without a debilitating mental disorder. It truly is only by the grace of God that I am able to stand and lead these people through something I myself don’t yet fully understand.

I’d like to rephrase once again, without discounting my previous assessment: my job is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life so far. I have learned so much in the seven months since I started at Hoosier House. I have learned not only about mental health and the stigmas associated with mental disorders, but also about myself and many characteristics which I believe God wants to hone in me.

Leadership. Patience. Love. Time Management. Kindness. Work Ethic. 

The list goes on. Point is, the hardest things are often the most rewarding, and often times God will put us between the hammer and the anvil in order to strengthen us. No amount of college could have prepared me for the amount I have learned working with the “mentally ill,” who have in many regards taught me as much about life as I’d like to hope that I have taught them. And to think, I had no intention of using my psychology degree when I moved to this place.

This job hasn’t only been rewarding in the way of unexpected personal growth and life lessons. My clients, the word we use instead of “patients,” have been amazing at expressing their gratitude for me. This is something else that I never expected, but am myself very grateful for.

One young man, we’ll call him Birch, recently expressed to me that he is so grateful that I came to work with him. He stated the words that I feel may be hyperbole but appreciate nonetheless: “I don’t think I would still be here without you. So thank you Brady. Thank you so much for all that you do.”

Another, Elm, encouraged me the other night while sitting around the dinner table with most of the house. He told me about the division in the house between clients and staff before my arrival, stating that they only saw staff members for chores and designated outing times. He called my arrival at the house the “changing of the guard,” and spoke to what a difference I have made for him and the entire house.

These words broke my heart and encouraged it all at the same time. This may have been the moment that I truly began to understand how much God is able to use me even despite my flaws, lack of life experience and lack of intention to even consider working in a place like this.

While I don’t believe that this is where I will be long-term, I am definitely seeing the fruit of my being where I am right now, and I am enjoying the sting of that refining hammer. As written in Esther, I am encouraged by these words that have become so central to my girlfriend;”For who knows if you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this.”

Much Love & Many Blessings my friends,

Brady J. L. Smith


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