In occupational therapy, we work with people who are “different”. People with disabilities, injuries, and difficulties. However, on top of all that, we work with people, and people in and of themselves are all different from one another, no matter how hard we try to categorize their similarities.
In my first year of OT school, our professors hammered into us the idea that all people are different – are individuals – and that we need to continually strive to not only be sensitive to those differences, but to learn to become competent in interacting with those differences. People will invariably have different lifestyles, cultural backgrounds, and life experiences from our own, and we as professionals must be able to respect each individual client we work with, no matter how different they are from us.
At first, this barrage of information in nearly every class seemed redundant and pointless. Yeah yeah, I get it, respect people’s differences and treat each person like an individual. I get it. Can we move on now?
However, now that I am ankle deep in the 2nd year waters, I am finding that these seemingly repetitive admonitions have actually started to sink in. They are positively influencing the way that I interact with and view people outside of the OT clinic. For example, I live in an intentional community of 40 other people who, even though we are all associated with the same seminary and the same Christian faith, seem to often see various circumstances very differently. Though I have often thought of myself as one who functions well in the midst of divergent opinions and beliefs, I have found that OT school has started to transform my view of “the individual”, and I am becoming better equipped to interact with people who are different from me even within my own living quarters. I can more easily note the strengths that are created by the variety of opinions, and I can more creatively engage with these differences in an effort to help make the community stronger.
It’s a weird thing to see it happen right in front of your eyes.
So as I progress through my second year of OT school, I am excited to see the new ways in which I will be transformed and I hope that, at the end of this school year, I will be able to reflect back and see just how far I have come.