by Beth Kranzel
Passion is the essence of social work. It is the desire to help those seeking opportunity and an outlet from oppression while reclaiming dignity and respect of human rights. It is the social worker who can guide the client through the clouded view of self-destruction and despair and help the individual rise above the hopelessness of everyday life.
When I began working with the high school population, I realized this was me 30 years earlier. I had felt the same emotional pain, awkward social identity, and confusion between right and wrong. Each story made me reflect on my life and the challenges I had faced. I knew there was more than the daily repetition of pushing paper and maintaining files. I was dragging day by day with no direction, self-awareness, or control of my emotional limits. I wanted the skills to adequately help others in need.
A close friend and mentor told me I had a special talent of connecting with people. My life experiences, empathy, patience, and soothing voice were the fundamental skills for a career in social work. It was at that moment I knew I had to pursue this career. To have the ability to help others was a sense of empowerment, not only for me but in understanding those experiencing similar challenges.
College brought life to endless days of caretaker at home, dedicated employee, and introvert. While I have come a long way, I still need to remind myself to stay grounded and believe in my abilities. As someone with strong emotions, I have found it challenging to separate my passion for helping others while keeping my emotions in check. I have become quite good at a poker face, but I still have to look in a mirror each night to know I have done my best and move forward.
I was interested in why people are different from a young age, whether it was skin color, gender, age, or other characteristics. My grandmother taught me to look for the good qualities in everyone with compassion and understanding.
I remember sitting in the beauty salon where my aunt worked on 13th Street in Harrisburg, PA. I would go to the playground across the street and play with the neighborhood kids. At the time, I was the minority, but thought nothing beyond having fun while my aunt worked. Her African American clients would welcome the questions I asked. My grandfather was a double amputee, and he would take me to his physical therapy sessions to watch how others worked hard to regain the strength to walk. He would remind me not to take my abilities for granted. My uncle made sure I saw his Vietnam Veteran brothers as heroes.
These skills remain with me every day as the diversity of our population continues to grow. While my upbringing and life experiences make me more knowledgeable and empathic, this does not happen without fault. My need for perfection and desire to fix everything is not realistic. Each person you come in contact with is an opportunity to learn from and grow.
A degree does not make you a good social worker. Willingness to develop with your clients and accept that you cannot fix all of their problems is what makes you a better social worker. Empathy and understanding diversity will make you a great social worker. Most important to me is remembering the lessons taught by my grandmother.
Beth Kranzel graduated from Harrisburg Area Community College in 2014 with her associate's degree in social sciences. She is currently pursuing her BSW through Shippensburg University's cohort program.