by Addison Cooper, LCSW
Kung Fu Panda 3 debuted recently, completing the story of Po. Po is a panda who has been raised by his adoptive father, a goose named Mr. Ping. In the first two movies, Po developed from being an unconfident, but fervent, fan of the local Kung Fu heroes into being the Dragon Warrior, their confident leader. In the third movie, Po must learn what it means to be the Dragon Warrior.
In the first film, Po learned what sort of a person he is—one with great potential. In the second, he learned what role he was destined to fill—the role of Dragon Warrior. Now in the third, he learns what it means to be the Dragon Warrior. Being the Dragon Warrior means connecting with some part of himself to save the world! (I admit that’s a pretty vague retelling, but I don’t want to spoil the movie for you!)
What Po accomplishes as the Dragon Warrior is possible both because of the role he has (Dragon Warrior) and because of the type of person he is (courageous and comfortable within himself). It’s not just the role that matters; the character of the person filling the role is also important. At the same time, it’s not just Po’s character that matters. It’s also the choices he has made—the decision to become the Dragon Warrior. Character, choices, training, opportunity, and role all combine to bring about Po’s impact on the world.
We journey with Po as he is learning what kind of person he is, then what he wants to do, and finally seeing what it actually means to the world. When he learns that he is the Dragon Warrior, he thinks that he has arrived—but really, his work has only started. Being the Dragon Warrior is an immense honor, but it is also a responsibility that requires Po to integrate all aspects of himself to serve his family, the community, and the world at large.
I wonder if social workers are kind of like real-world Dragon Warriors.
At first, maybe before college, we’re trying to figure out the kind of people we are. Are we kind? Courageous? Resourceful? Then, maybe in college, maybe in graduate school, maybe at some other point, we realize that we want to integrate all these aspects of ourselves to serve the world—we want to be Dragon Warriors (or social workers). And then we become social workers and get our names on business cards, and our first professional positions, and our first professional paychecks, and we feel as if maybe we’ve arrived. Like Po at the end of Kung Fu Panda 2, we’ve reached our goal!
But in reality, the position we’ve reached isn’t as important as what we can accomplish from that position. As social workers, we use our character and also our position to bring good to the world. The impact we can help make is possible because of our training and position, but also because of our individual character traits. Our character decides the kinds of change we want to make in the world; our position legitimizes and expands our efforts. Character, choices, training, opportunity, and role all combine to bring about our impact on the world. It’s not just being a social worker that makes a difference in the world; it’s being yourself as a social worker.
We have a special gift in life, in that our work derives so much from, and depends so much upon, our individual personalities. We can keep improving our practice and refining our impact on the world by doing the things that help us to become personally braver, kinder, and wiser.
We are the Dragon Warriors!
Addison Cooper, LCSW, is the founder of Adoption at the Movies (http://www.adoptionlcsw.com), where he invites families to use film to engage each other in important conversations. Find him at http://www.facebook.com/AdoptionAtTheMovies or on Twitter @AddisonCooper.