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Friday, May 06, 2005

Immunity

I am so used to hearing horrific things that I think I'm immune to even caring about it. Nothing really surprises me any more, unless it involves, say, a beating with a lead pipe, or attempted murder that has left a few bullets in the body.

At the conference I went to this week, one of the luncheon's keynote speakers was Mildred Nelson Holmes. She wrote Poor Orphan Trash, a memoir about an Alabama child who was severely abused by her father and grandparents, until she was made a ward of the state and placed in an orphanage with her eight(ish) brothers and sisters when she was eleven. I have been wanting to read it for a long time, but they don't have it in the public library system (embarrassing, I think, because she's a home-state girl). She was an amazing speaker, and a spectacular success story of the state's social service organizations. Some of the things she said made me tear up--something I never do when it comes to this work.

What I got out of the rest of the conference was: "Do more. Be more compassionate. Help more. Put up with more." And since I'm a bleeding heart liberal, it wasn't anything that I hadn't told myself before. My best is almost enough is basically my motto (though I prefer to think in terms of "there's always room for improvement" rather than "I'll never be good enough"), but I only thought about it later--that I should have taken a moment during the standing ovation that Mildred received to think: "This ovation is for me, too. My work is the reason why she's standing in front of us today." I should have stopped to feel the big group hug, the wave of power that came from everyone in the room believing in doing good work, helping others, and making a difference.

But instead I go back to work; grit my teeth in frustration with a particularly trying client; bend the rules to reward a particularly motivated client; and I'm happy. I'm proud of this work. I wish the need for it did not exist, but I love my job in it.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm proud of you too el. i must admit, you job is incomprehensible to me--nothing i could ever do. i love you.

5:05 PM  
Blogger metrogeekboy said...

I'm here in LA visiting my two best friends from college (who conviently married each other). J is a guy social worker for kids here in New Orleans, in my book the shittiest of southern places to be a social worker...but then you may disagree :) I think I'll recomend you site and the book to him.

8:14 PM  

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