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Celebrating Social Workers

by Grace Rudolph, BSW, LSW

(Congratulations to Grace Rudolph on the publishing of her first novel! You can order a copy of her book here.)

I can think of no career, other than the theatre, that offers so many opportunities to play so many roles while educating, inspiring, and lifting the spirits of people regardless of their ethnic, political, educational, or social backgrounds.

Once you've graduated from an accredited school and received your license to practice, our profession offers up a smorgasbord of choices. Depending on your degree you can work in health care, private practice, education, human resources, research, teaching, or politics. The list goes on and on. Social workers, with greater frequency, are stepping on to the political stage to develop policies and push through legislation that will ensure a level of social justice to enhance all our lives.

We have the ability to change our world for the better because we are major players in the drama of life. We help clients face the cycle of life from before conception to after death, from decisions regarding pregnancy to comforting the bereaved. What a gift we've been given. We have chosen careers that allow us to feel good about helping others feel good about themselves.

We're movers. We're shakers. We make things happen. Let's face it, if Joan of Arc, that enemy of oppression, was alive today she'd have an LSW after her name and be leading peace marches and storming the palaces of corporate corruption. If she isn't the patron saint of our profession perhaps we should organize our community and get the ball rolling. We're good at that sort of thing!

In the theatre of our daily lives our personal values don't always jibe with our professional responsibilities when complex problems arise. If an ad hoc meeting of an ethics committee isn't possible we can fall back on our mandate to encourage client autonomy. By presenting options, information and emotional support we can experience the joy of empowering a client to grow and evolve and experience the satisfaction of knowing they've solved their own dilemma.

Another joy, an unexpected one, especially for new social workers, is the joy that comes from being cast in a role you wouldn't have chosen for yourself. This happened to me when I was in college. My advisor told me I was being assigned to work with inner city gang members. "It will be good for you," she said. The last time I was told something would be "good" for me I was six-years-old, in bed, ill, and castor oil in cocoa was the catchall curative of choice.

I had a preconceived idea of what ‘those people' and their families would be like and, indeed, on one home visit I'm sure the lump in the sofa cushions was an Uzi. But on the afternoon a tough looking DYS escort opened a bullet-riddled door for my field supervisor and myself my blanket perception of reality changed. We made our way up a dark hall and entered an apartment filled with plants, framed photos, and a group of relatives and friends gathered around the kitchen table brainstorming ways to retrieve a beloved child from the violence of the streets.

I am a confirmed, card-carrying evening news junkie but, since that day I have never looked at the images of police cars, yellow tape, and victims in body bags in quite the same way.

The problems we face and the people we help don't always appear on the evening news and I can't recall any social worker who's fallen victim to the paparazzi, but all our jobs are filled with drama. Whether we're educating a recent widow who is for the first time launching a job search, or helping partners facing the devastation of AIDs to formalize a twenty-five year commitment, we give people the tools to ensure their dignity and feelings of self-worth. What other career offers so many daily opportunities to touch so many lives and change the world around us.

This March stand up and take a bow. Better yet, buy yourself a rose – and give it to a client.


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