Getting Fired, the Fire of 2013, and Friends of Fieldworkers, Inc.

Turning Shelf-Scare to Self-Care by Serving Others

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I have lost many jobs—by quitting or being let go (for insubordination, mostly). But the most violent wake-up call I have ever had was being fired from a volunteering job I really loved.

I was a chaplain volunteer in a local hospital. 

Patch Adams, M.D., modeled exquisite hospital visitor behavior when I clowned with him and 35 other clowns on one of his many clown trips to Russia a few years ago. [Clowns on The Bus narrates.] I tried to use a toned-down version in my patient visits. I listened, I cried, I held hands, I played checkers, I baked cupcakes for the nurses, brought a rosary and lotion to a dying patient and bought lots of little gifts for the sick children. I sang to the newborn as the nurse gave him his shots.

The supervising chaplain called me into his office. I was just being “Too Judy” for this job.

He said I should go to a nursing home where no one would fault me for over-giving or spending too much time with each person.

I was put on the shelf. I felt depressed, deflated, distressed and utterly confused. How could I possibly be fired for caring too much or giving too much? In a hospital? I pulled over to the side of the road on my way home and called Patch in Illinois. 

Oh, that’s so sad. I’m very sorry, Judy. Think about what happened and see if you could have done anything differently. Of course, it feels terrible.  Be very kind to yourself today. Tomorrow get up and be you again.

And soon came the Fire of 2013 in Oxnard, California. Twenty-seven families, mostly fieldworkers, were burned out of their tenement homes, losing all their meager belongings to fire, smoke, water and looters. When I read of the fire, I got off the couch and went to the site. The burned trailers, plants, children’s clothing, toys and trees touched me deeply. And though I didn’t know it then, a new door had just opened.

My husband, Ted (retired founding vice president of CSU Channel Islands), and I (retired educator) started helping fourteen willing families. With assistance from friends, The Abundant Table (a student faith-based organization) and relatives, we started on the journey of our lives. We provided the families with furniture, food, clothing, toys and books, bedding and other household items. But most of all, we provided friendship and caring for a group of people (many indigenous people from Oaxaca, Mexico) who are invisible, at best, and oppressed, at worst.

Friends of Fieldworkers, Inc., began as a nonprofit charity in 2015. Our mission is to befriend and support Ventura County’s farm workers and their families. I wrote about our work in a book that came out in 2019: Friends of Fieldworkers. True Personal Stories of Triumph, Tears and Invisibility. A Chronicle of Love. (Amazon Smile or Xlibris)


For people who love to give, who need to give, who live to give, finding the best place to do so is one of the best steps I have ever found to self-care. 

“For it is in giving that we receive.”     –Prayer of St. Francis

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