A Celebration Of World Social Work Day
This year’s National Social Work Month theme is “Promoting The Importance Of Human Relationships.” Eerily relevant, isn’t it? Human relationships are on our minds, as we try to comprehend the complex world we’re suddenly inhabiting. The field of social work is built on relationships- positive, educational, toxic, nurturing, lethal…healing.
I’ve written a lot about my career in social work, prior to my pursuit of acting and writing. I began my career in 2002, and worked full-time in direct services until 2017. I’ve worked through weather emergencies, transit shutdowns, holidays, and in scenarios that were far from safe, and often traumatizing. I could give you a list of all my sacrifices and uncomfortable days and nights, but they don’t really matter, in the grand scheme of the human experience. I chose to do that work. And then I chose not to. At least not in the form of daily direct service work, crisis response, and endless hours of navigating flawed and biased systems that I was never going to fix.
Today, we see social justice movements and public displays of advocacy that are uniting people. We are standing together, using our voices. These movements empower and support victims of injustice and are a beautiful example of progress. I have taken personal comfort in their messages. But, in order to implement the change we collectively seek, there is always the person doing the follow-up work. There is the social worker.
The social worker will resume the fight tomorrow, and the day after, for as long as they can. The social worker won’t post online about what they accomplished. The social worker will keep doing the tasks that fall into the “not my problem” category. The social worker will be asked, “What do you do, exactly?” The social worker will balance tragedy and triumph in the same day. The daily social work experience is often solitary, frightening, exhausting, unsanitary, intimidating, uncomfortable, questioned, mocked and dismissed. It is generally unacknowledged by the bright lights of a news camera. But the social worker continues.
“I do social work differently now” is my motto these days. But I remember how hard the direct interactions and difficult choices are. Social Workers, I know that you probably won’t be recognized adequately for your life-changing, life-extending, and life-saving work. So I want to tell you this: I see you when the news and social media posts exclude you from the first responder list. I think of you on the snow days and heat waves. I listen when you speak, firsthand, of topics others only read about. I know that your way of everyday lifesaving isn’t dramatic, but it is absolutely heroic. And I know that you’re strong enough in your dedication that you don’t need to hear these accolades. But I also know that, deep inside, they help.
A few years ago I posted this portion of the poem “Ode” by the English poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy, in honor of World Social Work Day, and I share it again, today:
“We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.”
Thank you for everything that you do. Happy World Social Work Day.