by Samuel Dickman
I am of the belief that all work makes a positive contribution to society. There is purpose and dignity present in every job, regardless of what level of worth or prestige our culture may attempt to assign to it. Despite this affirming philosophy, I have struggled to find a sort of meaning to call my own - that is, until I discovered social work.
There is little secret surrounding the risks involved in social work practice. Often, the hardships we face in relation to our work directly correlate with the very reasons we entered the field. Navigating our ardent passions for social justice advocacy, empathic client engagement, and the empowerment of oppressed populations can become overwhelming at times. Yet in these more trying moments, social work always reveals that the strength we need is both enveloping us and filling us.
I believe no other career can lead me to simultaneously experience this level of stress and this depth of peace. No other work can bring me this many tears, born of either joy or sorrow. I will laugh, smile, and celebrate, just as I will experience loss and heartache. There will be glances of fear and worry directed toward me, only to be soothed by a gentle reminder of how my clients have proven the courage that has dwelled within them all along. I have the privileged opportunity to delve into each of these emotions and allow them to nourish my human experience.
There will be mornings spent in careful planning, hectic afternoons of engagement, and quiet evenings of reflection and contemplation. Undoubtedly, there will be many occasions when I will feel as though I have failed a client or population, but I need look no further than the wisdom of a fellow social worker to give my processing a reality check. We are our greatest support network, and in my experience thus far, no set of colleagues can be more comforting than a few good social workers.
Social work calls the professional to a lifestyle of considerate living. It encourages us to emphasize goodness within both our world and ourselves. Over the course of a lifetime, social workers grow and learn to breathe deeply, love wholly, and cherish balance and understanding. Social workers become veritable safe spaces for people our culture strives to marginalize, providing shelter from the experience of second-class citizenship.
Above all else, social work truly makes me feel alive. It compels me to look beyond my life experiences and to stand with neighbors most never have the opportunity to learn from. Social work unites those our world seeks to separate, fosters growth within those assumed to have reached limits, and enacts positive change in seemingly hopeless scenarios. It is the most beautiful aspect of my life, and I could not be more grateful.
Samuel Dickman is a Bachelor of Social Work student at Indiana University Bloomington with work experience in child welfare, residential youth treatment, and with individuals experiencing homelessness.