Monday, July 31, 2006

Amadeus and Howard

The best mirror is an old friend.
~ George Herbert ~

Receiving a call from an old friend;
reminding you of past chapters in your life.
He remembers your beginnings as a social worker...
He believed then,
He believes now.
He understands.

The acknowledgement and support of an old friend:
it can help to reclaim what sometimes has felt
lost or forgotten.
We laugh, recall, and share
the past,
the future.
We are reinvigorated in our life purposes.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Not closing doors to peace

Photo by grassrootsmsw

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
- Margaret Mead

We, as individuals, need to stay creative and open to challenging the state of world affairs. It often feels that as individuals we are powerless. Yes, we can vote, but how can we make differences on a larger level? There isn't a definitive answer, but remaining passive is clearly not the solution.

I have done some research on the web, and found some interesting groups, advocating for change and peace. I also have located links to some insightful editorial newspaper articles. They challenge the mind, and hopefully broaden perspectives and views. Let's open new doors...check out these links:

Saturday, July 29, 2006

View from Knapp's

Hold on to what is good

Even if it’s a handful of earth.

Hold on to what you believe

Even if it’s a tree that stands by itself.

Hold on to what you must do

Even if it’s a long way from here.

Hold on to your life

Even if it’s easier to let go.

Hold on to my hand

Even when I’ve gone away from you.

-Hopi Prayer-

Making changes...

Photo by grassrootsmsw

"Every person must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life's most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?"

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Healing Angels

We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another. ~Luciano de Crescenzo

As a palliative care social worker, I am often witness to deep human suffering. Every person and situation in this work affects me, but some hit the very core of me and it can be a struggle to leave the emotions at the work place.

This week at work was especially difficult. It never seems right when a single mother dies too young and leaves behind 5 children. The echo of the children's tears stay with me. I feel a heaviness in my heart when I think of them facing their lives, so early, without parents. All of my palliative care collegues, and each care professional involved in this case have been deeply affected. We seem to be carrying the grief on our sleeves.

The beauty and grace that has come out of this, has been the sharing amongst us. While we may need to heal and reflect privately, there is an awareness that we shoulder the grief and sadness together. The path is much easier to navigate when one knows there are others walking with you, willing to support, understand, and listen.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The best therapy

After a long hard day at work, how could anyone not smile at this face? His whole body wags and wiggles, as he yelps happiness to see me. My heart just melts... even with the incriminating evidence on his lips that proves he has eaten all the tomatoes from the garden. Without a formal degree in psychotherapy, he has healed me in 10 seconds and the stress of the day just fades. I am a sucker for pet therapy. It just is what it is... without any words exchanged.

"He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds. He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him. (I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to care for me.) When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile. When I am happy, he is joy unbounded. When I am a fool, he ignores it. When I succeed, he brags. Without him, I am only another woman. With him, I am all-powerful. He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me... whenever... wherever - in case I need him. And I expect I will - as I always have. He is just my dog." - Gene Hill

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


What is a "grassroots social worker?" I don't know if I have the right to claim a label that could mean many things to many people. From my perception, "grassroots social work" implies going back to the beginning...the beginning of what wasn't even defined as "social work," but what was practiced with dedication, compassion, and skill.

The two women responsible as the founders and realized practitioners of social work are Mary E. Richmond (1861-1928) and Jane Addams (1860-1935). While Mary E. Richmond led the Charity Organization Societies movement, where she created the model for social case work and advocated for the establishment of professional schools in social work, Jane Addams is remembered for being the founder of the Settlement House Movement. Both were true movers and shakers in a time where there was a great deal of social, economic, and cultural upheaval in America. They lived in a time when women and minorities didn't have the right to vote; when there was child and immigrant exploitation in the work place; and WWI was upon the country.

Both these women made individual and global efforts which began the ground work for social change and justice, economic reform, and the liberation and empowerment of the disenfranchised. Both, were pioneers for human rights in a world that greatly needed their skills, drive, imagination, and dedication. They were social and human rights visionaries.

Mary Richmond focused on charity work and care for the poor by visiting them in their homes. She is responsible for conceptualizing a model for social case work (now referred to as case management), from assessment to direct practice and evaluation. This is now known in the social work field as "person-in-environment perspective. " She believed in the relationship between people and their social environment as the major factor of their life situation or status. She focused on the strengths of a person or family, rather than emphasizing their weaknesses. She acknowledged the importance of the therapeutic relationship between social worker and client, and attempted to find resolution to a client's problem by finding which system was causing the issue.

In addition to visiting the disadvantaged in their homes and connecting them to needed community resources, she published three ground breaking books: "Friendly Visiting Among the Poor," "What is Social Case Work?" and "Social Diagnosis." While Richmond's practice focused on the individual and their social diagnosis, it eventually led to her research, writing, and teaching the concept of social justice. By relating the practice, to the concept, she was able to fundraise and influence universities and philanthropists to address and research an array of social problems and needs. Through her life time work and contributions, she is recognized as the person who formalized social work education and made it recognized as a profession.

Jane Addams' work was realized through her development of the first Settlement House in America (Hull House in Chicago, IL). The idea of a settlement house was originally conceived in the UK. It's purpose was to provide a community house, serving the poor in urban areas by providing direct service. The hope for residents of settlement houses was to give them tools and resources to help them help themselves. Addams received The Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. In addition to her founding of Hull House, she was recognized and honored for her efforts in the Women's Suffrage Movement and for founding the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP. Many of the causes she advocated for, became policies under President Franklin Roosevelt. Jane Addams was controversial and threatening to many in her time, and often was labeled as an anarchist and communist. One man wrote in the Rochester Herald,

"In the true sense of the word, she is apparently without education. She knows no more of the discipline and methods of modern warfare than she does of its meaning. If the woman conceded by her sisters to be the ablest of her sex, is so readily duped, so little informed, men wonder what degree of intelligence is to be secured by adding the female vote to the electorate."

These sentiments only pushed Addams forth in advocating peace, equal rights and freedom for all individuals. When she died in 1935, over 2,000 men and women lined the courtyard of Hull House. A close friend and fellow settlement house social worker, Mary White Ovington, said this at her funeral:

"I knew Jane Addams and have never forgotten her piece of advice to me: "If you want to be surrounded by second-rate ability, you will dominate your settlement. If you want the best ability, you must allow great liberty of action among your residents." Jane Addams's name today is among the most famous in the world. But perhaps few people realize the incalculable good she has done in helping others to enlarge and glorify their own work. Many people can build their fortune by using others. Few can encourage ability without dominating it."

So, when I say, "grassroots social worker," I am thinking of the original goals and purpose behind the mission of the first social workers. It's about challenging systems and bureacracies, for the right reasons and for the good of the people needing to be served. Richmond and Addams have left us with a lot to aspire to. In their honor, and in the honor of the many people who have unmet needs, I strive to see the larger picture and change the rules to keep and uphold the original mission of social work.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Beginning a "social work" blog...why?

While I have truly enjoyed reading the many blogs out in the web universe, I was surprised at how few came from social workers. Many talented artists and insightful free thinkers have their blogs, but there are so few blogs coming from a profession that focuses on social change, empowerment of people, principles of human rights, and problem solving in human relationships and their environment. Maybe, we social workers, are so busy doing this life altering work, that doing a blog at the end of a day is just too much!

I invite any and every person to share or respond to my blog, but I also hope to reach the many hard working social workers and care professionals out there. Our work is about giving back in a world that has often forgotten how to. As professional caregivers and healers, we must allow self care to come into place as well...otherwise, that awful word, "burnout" comes into the picture. Sharing our stories, and hearing recognition of their importance, can be a form of self care. We see so many needy people in a day, and it can be easy to lose track and not honor our reactions and feelings to the pain and suffering we often witness and encounter. Equally significant, and often more rewarding, is sharing the lessons and insights we find in our encounters and exchanges.

This blog invites others to share their inspirations, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. We all have inspired musings which should be shared. I believe the most beautiful gifts we receive in life are from the experiences shared with others. When those "others" are disenfranchised, vulnerable, or at risk we are opened to learning and hearing at a deeper level.

My blog will be a mix of stories, experiences, feelings, and characters that I have encountered in my social work. I also hope to reflect on what all this may mean in my personal life. I reach out to others to respond and give me stimulating feedback. I end my first blog entry with a favorite quote:

"What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others remains and is immortal."
-Albert Pike-