So, sixty plus hours of training in listening skills, proper technique, spiritual components, what's right and what's wrong, and how to do this so as to help someone find the way to heal rather than using the gift to do them harm, and I get my first care receiver.
A real sweetheart of a man, his wife had passed away and he was alone, and just needed someone to talk to. That was easy. The fact that he chain-smoked cheap cigars, that wasn't easy, but I learned to undress in the garage and dump the dirty clothes before they got a chance to get the rest of the house vile.
The rewards were immense. I visited him for a year, the standard time, and then moved on, someone else took over.
The second care receiver was harder. A man in my church that my wife and I had begun to get to know... had a stroke, and somehow, miraculously, survived and recovered to the point that he was able, eventually, to walk again... but his left side was paralyzed, his left hand useless, and he lost his ability to read.
He was more challenging, and yet easier, his problem was the spiritual crisis of his stroke, his separation from his wife of 40 years, and his post-stroke decline in health, and the similar decline in his wife's health.
It really drove home to me the misery innate in our current care systems, where to live at all, you may be forced to live apart from your life's mate, and in the hands of strangers who must ration the degree to which they care about you. I had a year with him, then it was time for a rotation onward.
Normally, they have you go two years, then you take a year off. Because of a shortage, I was kept on for another year.
My third care receiver was a man who I consider to be truly heroic. He was diagnosed with MS in 1954... two years before I was born. He cared for his family, his wife and children, despite rapidly becoming unemployable as his body turned traitor and refused to obey him. He survived, thrived, and they are all great people. He's still alive at the time I write this, the longest-lived MS survivor in my state.
He, like my first care receiver, needed company more than anything else... but he also needed someone to listen to him, so he could handle the feelings and the situation he was in, having been at home for nearly 50 years. His wife could no longer handle the physical demands of caring for him, he ended up in a care center. My role was to help him deal with the emotions, and to be a friend when he needed one.
By the way... I hate care centers now.
A year passed, and I was just ready to return to that duty, when my job suddenly evaporated ... during Holy Week, of course, the 11th of April, 2001.
So, when time rolled around for me to get my new care receiver, they let me know that there weren't that many men needing care givers, but if I wanted, I could have a Stephen Minister of my own.
Which was kinda neat.
Trent wasn't a perfect match ... we had trouble finding times to meet, and he kept trying to debug my job search, when what I wanted was someone who could help me process the emotional part. Unfortunately, Trent's not really good at getting me to talk about my feelings, especially when I'm locking them up so as not to panic.
A year later, I still don't have a care receiver, but I have a new care GIVER, and this guy, Dick, seems to be a lot more sneaky at getting past my defenses. Perhaps because he reminds me that I've got them up.
What brought this on? Well, I play on a lot of online RP fora. I have discovered that somehow, people can sense that I pay attention to them. People go to those places for many reasons, but one of them is that they need a place where they can share their problems with people who won't reject them.
And, sometimes, I get someone who is just so damnably, determinedly, blisteringly negative and self-hating that I lose it and yell at them. Like I did tonight at one of the guys on the main game I RP on at the moment.