I approach the door and wondered what was on the other side. I was there to complete an estimate for the cost of service to help clean up the home. I already prepared myself because the case notes said Child Protective Service was involved. Anytime children are involved it increases my level of curiosity and desire to help. I know I must keep my emotions in check.
I am a little early and so the father is a startled and can't find the words to say. He awkwardly opens the door and looks nervous. It helps when I am early. His level of anxiety is heightened and to catch him off guard usually helps.
He lets me in and isn't sure what to say. He is not suffering from hoarding disorder. His house looks like a case of giving up. Piles and piles of trash, boxes and toys stuck together with cat fur. Life took a turn for the worse. Things got so difficult he just gave up.
I told him not to worry. It wasn’t as dirty as most houses I see. I understand how things can get piled up. I see his 10 year old daughter coming from the kitchen. She looks a little scared, concerned, embarrassed and slightly happy. She starts to crack a smile while making small talk.
As I take the home tour I glance at the hole in the wall and he tells me that is 17 year old son suffers from schizophrenia and is now in a treatment center. As we continue on, he points out some things that his wife left behind, when she decided to runaway.
I take a few big breaths. This is not a lazy man who just doesn’t like to clean up his home. He is dealing with BIG challenges and is doing the very best he can. Life is not easy. Judging this man for the way he lives will not help.
In 20 minutes I gave him a small glimpse of hope. An acknowledgment that he is doing a great job, even if his home doesn’t look like it.
As I leave he says I inspired him to work on his house and start to clean up. That is all it takes. One small action at a time.