by Linda May Grobman, MSW, ACSW, LSW
On October 16, 2014, I was deeply honored and humbled to accept the National Association of Social Workers Pennsylvania Chapter 2014 Social Worker of the Year Award. An award ceremony was held at the annual chapter conference in King of Prussia, PA.
It was a privilege to be recognized in this way by my professional peers, and it is one that I will cherish always. It was an honor to be introduced by PA NASW Executive Director Ron Simon and by SaraKay Smullens, and to have the opportunity to express some thoughts about our profession. Below is the text of my acceptance speech.
I am deeply honored to accept this award. We are all members of a great profession with many challenges and rewards. I know that we all may wonder at times what we are doing or why we are doing it or how to do it best.
So, I sat down and wrote a few thoughts to share with you tonight. See if you recognize yourself in the following:
The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of Social Work
Social workers are women and men.
Social workers are young and old.
We are every race and every religion.
We have varying political views.
And different life experiences.
Social workers are professional people with BSW and MSW degrees (and their CSWE-accredited equivalents), and Ph.D.s and DSWs, too.
Social work is helping people.
Social work is helping communities and organizations.
And groups and families.
It is assessing, planning, counseling, consulting, writing, thinking, advocating, and much more.
It’s providing comfort and providing options.
Making things happen and making a difference.
Sometimes, it’s exhausting and exasperating.
It can lead to burnout and compassion fatigue and secondary trauma.
It can make us wish we had gone into an easier field at times.
And then we go to a conference or a beach or a movie or read a book or listen to some great music or do some other self-caring things
and we feel reinvigorated afterwards.
And we’re ready to begin again.
Social work is rewarding.
It’s fulfilling…when we see the smile of a child or our advocacy efforts become law.
What we do—what you do—is important.
It’s more than a job.
It’s a helping profession.
Some call it a calling.
Social work is 9-5.
It is 24/7/365.
It is in the morning, afternoon, and the middle of the night.
It is anytime a person or a community needs our help.
Social work is in hospitals.
It’s in schools.
Nursing homes, community centers, court houses.
On computer screens.
Social work is in mental health centers.
In senior centers.
It is in board rooms and in bathrooms.
In libraries. On the street.
It’s in adoption and foster care.
In people’s homes and in the workplace.
In the military.
In an office and in a car.
In the community.
Social work is anyplace a person or group needs a social worker to be.
Social workers do it because they want to help.
We want to help.
We want to help individuals and families who come to us.
We want to make the world a better place.
We want a world without the isms—racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, classism, heterosexism, anti-Semitism, too many isms to name—that shape so much of the world around us.
We do it because we are angry when we hear about Ferguson, MO, and Trayvon Martin and when we know that there are 40,000 suicides a year in the U.S. alone and that there is still stigma about mental illness and getting treatment for it.
We want to see a world where children aren’t bullied because they’re gay or because they are different.
And we don’t want to—we can’t—just sit on the sidelines and watch these things continue to go on in our world and that of our future generations.
Because we want to see social justice.
We do it because along with the challenges, there are rewards.
We want to see people living productive and healthy and happy lives.
We want positive change on the micro, mezzo, and macro levels.
Social workers do it because we care.
Because we have a passion.
What is your passion?
Follow that, and you will know why you do it.
Social workers help people by talking.
Or with music, or storytelling, or art.
Social workers work in different ways using different techniques.
Using theories as eclectic as the social workers themselves.
With warmth and genuineness.
With gentleness or with “toughness.”
SO…whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever, whyever, and however YOU do social work, THAT IS SOCIAL WORK.
I am so very honored to be recognized and acknowledged today by my peers in the social work profession. I’m honored to be part of this esteemed group. I got here with the help of many people…my professors at the University of Georgia School of Social Work and my field instructor, Marjorie, who once said to me, “Look…if social work was easy, you wouldn’t need a degree to do it.” And she was right. Janice Lehr (now Janice Fristad) hired me to come to Pennsylvania in 1988 to work at the PA NASW chapter office. NASW has been a big part of my career, and I’ve been a proud member since 1981.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT PASSION
In 1993, I had a wild idea to start a magazine called THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER. I had a passion for social work career development and for writing and editing. I also loved magazines. I would read them all. So I wanted to start the magazine I wished I had had when I was new. What I have tried to do is to create a platform for publishing useful, practical, and inspiring writing in a non-academic format to support social workers and people new to the field, and to address issues like burnout, self care, racism, and the other isms that I talked about earlier. The magazine now has 84,000 fans on Facebook, and it is very satisfying that it resonates with so many people. What is really great, though, is all of my colleagues who give of their time and talents to share their wisdom and their passion through this platform. SaraKay is one of those colleagues, as are other PA NASW members and social workers around the country and the world.
Social workers are great. I love social workers! We have so many things to be passionate about. I encourage you to find what it is for you that makes you really passionate and excited to be a social worker.
I invite you to visit THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER at SocialWorker.com and let me know if you have an idea that you would like to share with other social workers. Writing is one way to spread our passion.
Thank you so much to SaraKay Smullens (who is a former PA NASW Lifetime Achievement Award winner) for nominating me, the PA NASW staff, and PA NASW members, and all my colleagues who contribute to make what I do better. Thank you to my family, including my husband Gary and our son Adam, for their loving support of me in all that I do.
This is a highlight of my social work career. I am truly overwhelmed and honored far beyond what words can say. Thank you all very much.
Linda May Grobman, MSW, ACSW, LSW, is the founder, publisher, and editor of THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER.