New friend: “So, what do you do?”
Me: “Occupational Therapy”
New friend: “So, what does that mean?”
I have had this conversation many times. Problem is, there is just no single story of what Occupational Therapy is. Like all the best professions, it can’t be explained in a one-liner. And anyway, there is ALWAYS DANGER IN THE SINGLE STORY. If I condense OT down to a single story, you’ll miss the beauty of its diversity and find me getting irritated at you.
The concept behind OCCUPATIONal Therapy that in what we do we find meaning, so we want to help people be able and successful at what they do. I also believe that a good portion of our meaning comes from who we are, who we are becoming and the people around us helping us on that journey. So if I just tell you about what I do, or what I help other people do, without telling you who helps me to be, what I endeavour to be and help other people be, I’m not telling you the whole story.
This is why I feel the need to convey more than just what I do, but who I endeavour to be as I convey the many stories of this thing called “Occupational Therapy”.
So, in my role at Sandi I find myself helping children be successful at doing their school work or daily activities. This can mean doing educational activities at the table, jumping on the trampoline, cooking or doing a touch-typing course . This also means being a supportive adult, who sees their strengths and helps them see and know their struggles. It means demonstrating being humble in success and persistent in failure. It means being available and present with them and caring and compassionate example.
At Sandi, being an Occupational Therapist, also means partnering with my colleagues to help them successfully do therapy. This means finding the resources and knowledge to know about child development, creating fun activities and building networks. This also means building a supportive and constructive team environment, where individuals can be open about their weaknesses and affirmed in their strengths. This means being realistic and open about my own strengths and weaknesses. This means being a student as well as a teacher. It also means being brave enough to form real relationships with my colleagues, relationships where we impact and inform the people we’re being and becoming.
These colleagues are significant in who I am being and becoming as a person and a therapist. I hope I am a positive factor in their being also.
I have gone through this personal journey, when earlier this year due to elections in Malawi, I was limited in my ability to do anything outside my house. For a week, I stopped the “occupations” of going to work, church, social outings and I discovered that my identity and meaning is not found in those things I do anyway. It is in who I am and who I was created to be. I was gently reminded that Mary sat at Jesus feet while Martha rushed around making preparations, but Jesus commended Mary for her being.
Like our Sandi brochure’s say; being an Occupational Therapist means “assisting clients of all ages and all ranges of abilities to participate in meaningful occupations”. Being an Occupational Therapist for me also means being outrageously generous like my parents, hardworking and compassionate like my colleagues, recklessly hopeful like my housemate, creative, resourceful and inspired like many of my friends and loving like my God.