Social Services Workers; we’re supposedly the compassionate ones right? We are the ones who are drawn in life to work with the marginalized people in our communities. It is we, who work with troubled youth, the abused, homeless, abandoned, illiterate, physically and mentally challenged. Yes we were drawn here by the desire to care for others, to advocate on their behalf, to guide and support; to lend a hand to the vulnerable.
We’re nowhere near perfect I fear however. No, some of who are the very epitome of everything we value most in the good work we do, are ourselves looking for answers and workable solutions sometimes within our own families. We may have estranged relationships with those we should be closest to. We might have ongoing and escalating battles with our children, parents, siblings or members of our spouse’s families. We are in the end, human beings ourselves coping and dealing as best we can with what life brings our way on a daily basis.
I’m sure that in the middle of the family arguments we have been in for example, we’ve engaged in the process with the same passion, energy and conviction that anyone and everyone else do. It is only after the heat of the moments pass that we step back and reflect on what we might have done differently had we applied the same excellent advice we share with those we work on behalf of in our professional lives. Ah but it seems different at the time doesn’t it?
You’ll see excellent Social Services Workers who are divorced, separated, stressed, anxious, depressed, isolated, poor and chemically dependent. You’ll see among our number the wealthy, introverted, assertive, shy, lonely, both the beautiful and the quite ordinary; the disabled, tattooed and yes even the convicted. We are a collective group in society who goes about doing the work we do looking and acting for the most part human.
We don’t wear capes and have super human powers that make us recognizable heroes on comic book covers. Yet nonetheless there are those out there who admire us and see us as their real life heroes notwithstanding. Some among us do save lives, but not from fiery infernos, evil scientists and arch villains. Hold on check that; there are scientists creating and distributing chemicals that put those we work with at risk of dying, and sometimes we do get people moved into better basic housing that reduces the risk of being killed in some dubious shelter where there are no fire alarms or sprinklers. So maybe we do save people from fiery infernos just waiting to happen.
Yes if you were to assemble all us Social Service Workers in a large room and you looked among us, you’d find a pretty healthy cross-section of the general populations we serve. We’d look pretty ordinary, like the crowd you might see in an underground waiting to board a subway. We’re decidedly nondescript. We’ve no badge that identifies us like a Police Officer, nor a coat of distinction that you’d point to like the Concierge at a Hotel. We are in the end, just a collection of citizens, representative of the people in the communities we work in.
Mistakes we make by the truckload too. Just because we fall prey to the occasional bad choice or poor decision shouldn’t be taken as the personal justification others might cite for ignoring the sage advice we implore them to take. We make so many decisions over the course of a day that it is ridiculous to assume all those decisions will be the right ones. Why on earth would we suspect that we are impervious to error? We actually embrace these moments however; embrace I say because we intuitively know that it is our mistakes that are our greatest opportunities for learning and therefore growth. Some of the wisest among us are the biggest foul ups out there!
Our critics – and there are many of them – point to our very mistakes and say, “How can you claim to be this fabulous Social Services Worker when your own life is littered with mistakes, your personal life is a testament to your inability to make the proper big decisions etc.?” It’s true too; we’re human. We error and we do it often. Hopefully we learn and don’t repeat those mistakes but even in this we find we are human too.
We interact daily with people who sometimes are literally hanging on to a fragment of their sanity; balancing that fine line between living and carrying on versus ending it all and leaving their struggles behind them. The advice, help, suggestions and prompts we give after listening to their individual struggles that torment their souls is always well-intended to help. Still, we’ll lose a significant number of those we work with; some will move, others will succeed, some will just disappear and some will die. Irrespective of the titles we hold, the organizations we work in or the geographic locations in which we find ourselves, we will be fresh and ready with each sunrise to repeat our good work and give it our best again.
So why do we do it? We do it for the very reason we began it of course; we are the compassionate ones. We are the givers; our rewards don’t come with medals, huge salaries and bonuses but with the occasional, “Thanks for keeping it real.”