No two ways about it. A lot of my work is social work. I get people connected to resources, find the address to their local Social Security office, encourage men to get connected with their child support. That falls into my chaplain job.
Twice a month, I volunteer at a local domestic violence center. I'm there as a chaplain, to talk to the women and kids who access the resources there, to offer spiritual support. I also have access to a small fund of money for emergency housing. So far, my chaplain services have been put to use only a few times. By Friday afternoon, most people have found what they need for the weekend. But a couple of times in the last few months, there have been those housing calls.
I've discovered something crucial. I make a lousy social worker.
My sister and I were talking this morning when I had this revelation. I'm an easy touch. I'd be hauling out my credit card, making reservations at the local Motel 6 based on any good story someone told me.
I'm not that way in the prison. In the prison, I can spot the difference between truth and bs quickly. I told my sister that this may be because the guys aren't going anywhere. They have to deal with me on the spot. Those folks who call the domestic violence office--I can only hear their voices and not see their eyes. And I fall for the stories every time.
I suppose part of the problem is that I take what I'm told at face value. And that I've told some terrific lies in my own life. Like the time I told my third grade teacher that my brother Geoff had died. Granted, he was in the hospital and very sick, but only his death would score enough points so that Sr. Terrence would pray for him, out loud, right before class. And then when my parents asked about it, I claimed she must have gotten me mixed up with one of the other forty-nine students in my class. I was in third grade. What did I know? I attended the only Catholic school in the only Catholic parish in town. Why would anyone pay attention to the funeral schedule? Yep. That was my thinking.
I've been a chaplain for almost 8 years now, with more than 20 years before that in high school and parish settings. Maybe I'll learn one of these days. But I don't think it's going to be this week.