Ever since I wrote a career paper in high school, or maybe even junior high school, I have wanted to be a social worker. When I was fourteen, that meant helping other people that needed my help, because they couldn’t do it for themselves. When I was in my undergraduate classes, I learned that social work meant to assist others in learning how to help themselves, empowering them to do it on their own. Since that time, right up to now, I have believed on and off that I have the answers for someone else, and that I want them to be able to sustain themselves, without my assistance.
The one thing that was always present, however, has been passion. Passion for the work, and passion for the right for persons to be able to live a life that is happy, free and secure. My passion has taught me how to be a fierce advocate; an open spokesperson; and a person committed to justice and equity. It has meant many nights crying about what I was not able to do; about what didn’t turn out the way that I had hoped. It has also meant moments of tremendous joy, and promise, and above all, hope for a better life for persons that I was helping, and a better world for all of us.
Today, it was no exception. I arrived at my job, full of promise of a new day; ready to take on any situation that I might face whether it be a challenge or one that came with ease. Just as I was ready to leave for the day, I got a phone call, from a parent that was distraught over something that she had been told about her child. I listened. I explained. I empathized and offered encouragement, and assured her that I would get her the answers that she needed. And, when I hung up, I felt spent. Tired. Discouraged. I felt like no one was listening to this person in the “system” that she saw herself up against, and I was her voice.
I love being an advocate. I love being the voice for those that aren’t ready to speak for themselves. I desire truth and demand it of myself and others. Yet, I get tired. I get judgmental. Not too long ago, I would have been judging that parent for not taking “proper” care of her child, rather than today, judging the system that was giving her bad information. So, today I judged the system instead. I cried. I learned some valuable lessons about the persons that I serve, that I support, and that no one of them, whether they are in the system, or a family, or a co worker, are no different than myself. We are all trying to figure it out, asking the questions, getting the answers, fighting the good fight. Today, I understand yet again, how important it is for me to speak up, but also to remember that we are all in this. Whether we are representing the person who is oppressed, the oppressor, or a bystander, we are all learning. We are all trying. We are all only ever putting forth our best effort.
And tomorrow, I will wake up, ready for the day, and full of passion to go at it all again. And, if the day comes that the passion is gone, then I know it is time for me to go.