A Social Worker’s Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving to all those who celebrate the holiday this week! This seems like the perfect time for me to pause and give thanks for the many blessings I’ve received throughout my social work career. Let me start by saying that I’m especially grateful to my parents for helping me finance my education so that I could have a fresh start after graduation instead of facing a mountain of student debt.

I’m grateful for the field instructors assigned to me as a grad student, particularly my 2nd year instructor. Looking back, I can see how generous he was in sharing with me his clinical expertise. He took time to find meaningful learning experiences for me and he made me work very hard for a good grade. The lessons I learned from that placement have served me well my entire career.

I’m grateful for each and every supervisor I’ve had through the years. The skilled ones taught me that outstanding bosses know when to lead their staff and when to serve. The not-so-skilled ones taught me that respect must be earned, not commanded, and that life isn’t always fair, but that I usually have a variety of options should I choose to exercise them.

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work in multidisciplinary settings with nurses, physicians, and professionals of many other disciplines. I’ve been blessed to witness extraordinary acts of compassion first hand, and I find it immensely reassuring to know there are such angels around me in the workplace.

I’m grateful to my social work colleagues for providing me with support and encouragement … and even a kick in the pants when I needed it. It’s been a blessing and a privilege to work with so many social workers of outstanding character and skill throughout my career.

I’m grateful for the clients I’ve worked with, even the most abusive and challenging ones. They taught me many things about human suffering and helped open my eyes to the many ways that suffering finds expression in our society. Perhaps most important, they taught me that life has more meaning when it isn’t all about me, but rather what I can do for others … even when the intervention is uncomfortable.

I’m grateful to live in a country which admittedly isn’t perfect and often seems headed in the wrong direction, but in which I may enjoy freedoms not found in some parts of the world, including freedom of religious expression. In gratitude for that freedom, and with the hope that it helps you reflect on your blessings during this holiday, I’d like to close with a few words from Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation of a National Fast Day on March 30, 1863:

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.” –Abraham Lincoln

Source: The American Presidency Project, on the Internet at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=69891&st=&st1= (visited November 22, 2006).


One response

  1. Thank you for your observations about social work and management. I have been in the field for 5 years and have recently been struggling with something similar to this. I work in an agency with several professions; counselors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and undergrads in psychology, sociology, etc. I take social work very seriously and feel strongly about how we should treat each other, our clients, and do our job. I struggle with determining if it is each individual person and their choices or if it is their lack of practicing from a social work perspective. My supervisor is a counselor and she does not seem to identify herself as an advocate for her employees. Is it due to her personal preference of how to be a supervisor or her profession?

    I certainly agree with your observation of treating each other as colleagues rather than beneath our superiors. Those of us on the front line certainly feel it when we are not treated as such. As well, then the agency and the clients still suffer because we do not feel respected.

    I can see it is difficult to be in a supervisory position trying to satisfy the agency, saff, and clients, but in the end keeping your staff happy seems to be the logical way to go. In that way, the clients will be happy, the staff will talk positively, and the agency will prosper.

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