It’s good work, very good work, but being involved in the lives of these men and women takes its emotional toll, believe me. Of course there is a lot of joy in the work, but the moments of pain tend to stick to my psyche a lot longer. Some days I come home and sit on the couch and stare and stare at nothing, having completely retreated from the day into the darkest depths of my brain...If I believe (I do believe this, you should know) that an essential element of this kind of work is identification with the poor, then what elements of the lives of these men and women will never leave me? It’s sort of like I fear transference of the emotion of their experiences.Paul expresses eloquently the challenges of hearing the troubling stories of abuse over and over and carrying that burden as well as the tendency to feel proud.
It’s not like a real overt sense of superiority, but just a little something I carry around in the back of my mind so when I meet somebody new at church, let’s say, and I ask him what he does and he says something like, “I’m in finance,” I can dip into that little sack of pride in the back of my mind and think at him, “Finance, huh? Well, who gives a rat’s ass? I know a guy with a huge crack problem and it’s my job to help him. Finance? Please. Come on, ask me what I do, you sucker.”I'm trying to whet your appetite with these quotes, but you really need to read the entire piece. Great writing, very honest, profound.