I came home this afternoon and pulled a slim letter from Portland State University out of my mailbox, kind of pay-your-library-fees-already sized. Only, I knew I had paid my library fees because I had viewed my grades just fine two weeks ago, please and thank you.
This, however, was not a library fine letter. (This won't surprise you: I don't get library fines. Too compulsive for that sort of thing.)
No, instead, this was the letter,
Congratulations! We are pleased to announce that you have been selected as the first student to receive the Astrid Schlaps Scholarship ..."
And I was thrilled beyond measure. Any bit helps. Any. And then in the next breath, I grieved.
Astrid Schlaps was a professor at the GSSW until early this year, when she was killed at her home in an apparent murder-suicide in Manzanita. Although I had never met Astrid, she was well loved by previous graduates as well as her professional colleagues.
The scholarship is geared toward students wishing to continue in careers working with victims of abuse and trauma. I read the letter, I rejoice. I read the letter, I grieve. Quite suddenly, I come into full realization that I am receiving assistance towards my education because a woman's life has been lost. And when I think about Astrid, I think about my very first shelter client. And the second. And the 5th. And the 55th. Because you never really forget any of them. And I think about the first abused child I advocated for. And the children who followed. Because you never forget any of them, either. And I think about the children I'll be working with this year at my internship.
I'm still a Courtesy Guardian Ad Litem for the Vineyard County because one of the first kids on my caseload was transferred here right as I was moving here. I visited with him last night, his case is almost closed, and I said softly, "My God, (kid). Look at how much you've come through in the past four years."
And that kid? He grinned. Because he knows. He knows how much he's gone through and he's seen that things can get so much better.
Better in a way that nobody (maybe not even me) could have expected. It doesn't happen every time. But it happens enough to know it's worth the work. This is a strange career. Very strange. We're certainly not in it for the (imaginary) money and I spent a lot of time wishing I didn't have a job -- that these issues and inequalities would level out to put me right out of work.
Then again, I have no idea what else I'd do.
This is where it's always been for me.