This is Social Work

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I am not real unless you believe in me. I have no voice unless you listen for it. Much like a shadow, I can be seen but I have no power to move objects or create change. Sometimes, however, seeing a shadow will make you stop, look carefully, or even change direction.

It is hard to be powerless. My oldest sweet baby girl is now twenty-one and making choices so inappropriate that I might have made them at her age and she does not want to hear what I think. That is powerlessness. I don’t need to sit at a government issued cubicle to feel superfluous: motherhood already does that for me.

When I tell people that I work with chronically homeless adults who often deal with drugs, alcohol, emotional & mental disturbance, physical or learning challenges and are parenting while navigating these obstacles, I am told I am a “hero”, or “I’m glad I don’t have your job”.

I am not a hero.
And
Yes, you probably have my job but you aren’t given a business title. I hope you have my job. I am about to mix some metaphors so forgive me in advance.

I love people. I do. Jury duty excites me because I am locked in a room with strangers for days. Entire days with people I have not met! They have lives I can explore, adventures I have not heard of and dreams I could not imagine. I dig Jury Duty.

My job requires that I love folks. It isn’t in the description, but it is an invaluable tool and skill. I have to love humanity enough to spend time with people scraping the bottom and trying to bob up for air…and I do it over and over , 5 days a week for years, while being paid a salary that might as well be imaginary. Also, I have to dress up to look like someone who has their life together and is worth respecting enough to listen to. There really should be an Oscar in this for me.

I sit in a big room with people who all want to “help others”  and push paperwork and Excel workbooks like Winter Olympians at the start of a bobsled race. The environment is cold but we are passionate and giving it everything as fast and furiously as we can. It is a crazy stressful ride and each day we do it again-sometomes 14 times a day.

Sometimes I win. The specter of my shadow stays visible to them as they make.choices, keep promises made at my desk, and plot their futures.

It is a strange job. I don’t get anything more out of helping a fan find employment and stable housing than I do if I spent the day reordering my file cabinets (ya’ll know I am alphabetically chalkenged). There are no bonuses, certificates of merit, gold stars or any other acknowledgement that my work is great , or even passable. The work has to be o’clock own reward.

Today I received a call from one of the local colleges asking if I had completed my Masters Degree yet. I have not even been accepted to a program and I am stuck where I am. However, we agreed that I like the work and I’m good at it , which are important achievements. I did not like working in a call center or selling shoes at Mervyn’s. I did like working at LAMP with John Best and his crew.

For the most part I am invisible, but when I am noticed by someone trying get to create change : it is all worth it.
.and that is what I do.

I haunt people and crawl into their thought processes until they do what I want them to do. If only  I was able to do that as a mom.

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