Tag Archives: social work

The Impeded Stream

One of the oldest sayings in social work is, “I’m a social worker, not a miracle worker!”

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While it’s mostly a joke, I am frequently called into situations when no one knows what to do. In some ways, it’s intimidating to be viewed as the resident problem solver, but I also love the opportunity to be creative and explore options. Those “What now?” situations can be frustrating, especially if I’m in a time crunch or none of the options are good, but they keep me on my toes and teach me so much, no matter the outcome. My friend Caroline introduced me to the following poem, and it resonated with me. Perplexity, though trying, is what brings out my best work and the most important lessons I learn.

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

– “The Real Work” by Wendell Berry

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Compassion Hurts

One of the trickiest things about social work (or really any helping profession) is genuinely caring about people without taking on all of their burdens. Obviously most people are attracted to helping professions because they want to do just that: help. However, it’s easy to see why people burn out in social work and related fields. As caring people, there is a tendency to empathize and take on that person’s pain, but you also need to be able to step back and see the problems without being overwhelmed by them. I was recently introduced to the quote below, and it resonated with me. It speaks to the paradoxical nature of being a social worker; you must care deeply but retain a certain level of detachment.

“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”  – Andrew Boyd, Daily Afflictions: The Agony of Being Connected to Everything in the Universe

 

A Swift Kick In The Butt {Fun Friday}

Hallelujah, it’s Friday!!! Work was absolutely crazy this week. Obviously I know that protecting confidentiality is of the utmost importance, but sometimes I REALLY wish I didn’t have to abide by HIPAA regulations. You would not believe some of the things I see and hear with my cases. My friends Brittany and Caroline, who are also social workers, devised a plan for us to write a book called I Can’t Make This Sh*t Up. We can all attest to the cliché that truth is stranger than fiction.

Anywayyyy, on to some Fun Friday stories, pictures, and videos!


Let’s get this party started with a dog video. (I have a dog video problem.)

He is so perplexed by that fountain.

Next up is a “Lip Flip” segment from The Tonight Show. Have you seen this yet? This one with Jimmy Fallon and Billy Crystal is by far the funniest one to me.

I find it unsettling and hilarious.

Below is an amusing Calvin and Hobbes strip that I want to put up in my office.

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Sometimes we all need one. 🙂

Finally I want to share an NPR segment called, “Beyond Charity: Turning The Soup Kitchen Upside Down.” While charity is certainly necessary in the short-term, it is often not the best way to help people long-term.  Robert Egger, the founder of DC Central Kitchen, noticed that many of the individuals eating at local soup kitchens were battling addiction and facing incarceration in addition to dealing with unemployment and homelessness. Egger decided to take a “teach a man to fish” approach and created a culinary job training program, which teaches individuals how to cook and earn a food handler’s license. The individuals in the job training program help produce approximately 10,000 meals each day. About 5,000 meals are sent to local nonprofit organizations and another 5,000 meals are distributed to local, low-income schools.

My graduate school classmate Allison is starting up a non-profit with a similar model in Chapel Hill, NC. It’s called Made With Love Bakery. Made With Love Bakery is a “faith-based transitional employment bakery sharing the love of Jesus Christ with individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness, giving them a second chance at employment and equipping them with the training and support they need to overcome poverty.” You can find out more on the website or her blog.

Sheesh, I’m supposed to turn off the social work for these posts. What can I say? I love seeing people find creative ways to address social issues. It inspires me.

Have a great weekend!!

Health Equity {Social Justice Issue}

I am FINALLY posting another piece in my social justice series. I love social justice posts, but they take longer to write than most of my posts. If you haven’t read Food Deserts and Swamps yet, read this one first. This post provides a broad overview of the relationship between social justice and health. It helps explain my perspective on health and well-being, and sets the stage for future social justice posts.


Health Equity

What is health equity? 

Healthy People 2020 defines health equity as “attainment of the highest level of health for all people. Achieving health equity requires valuing everyone equally with focused and ongoing societal efforts to address avoidable inequalities, historical and contemporary injustices, and the elimination of health and health care disparities.”

Health Equity

What is the difference between health equity and equality? 

Health equality focuses on fairness and involves equal distribution of health-related resources to all people regardless of pre-existing differences. Health equity focuses on people attaining the same optimal level of health, which often means that some people get more assistance or resources than others. Particular attention is paid to groups that have experienced major obstacles to health associated with being socially or economically disadvantaged. The image below is helpful for understanding the difference between the two.

equity

Source: theequityline.org

Unlike health equality, a health equity approach acknowledges that some individuals have a better chance of attaining optimal health than others. Therefore, the goal of health equity is to level the playing field so that everyone has the same opportunity to be healthy. An essential component of leveling the playing field and ultimately eradicating health disparities is addressing social determinants of health.

What are social determinants of health? 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), social determinants of health are “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels.”

In simpler terms, social determinants of health include a person’s

  • socioeconomic status,
  • neighborhood,
  • employment conditions,
  • education,
  • access to healthcare,
  • race,
  • ethnicity,
  • sexual orientation,
  • gender,
  • and personal behaviors.

The video below illustrates social determinants of health by using “Chad” and “Jeff” as examples.

For another example, as I pointed out in my last social justice post on food desserts and swamps, people who live in low income neighborhoods or communities are less likely to have access to affordable and nutritious food. And as we all know, a healthy diet is absolutely essential for overall health.

Why does health equity matter?

Health is a basic human right, and it affects every part of our lives. While some factors of health are beyond human influence, we have the power to address the social injustices that lead to health disparities. By building on individuals’ strengths and mitigating the effects of social and economic disadvantages, we can work towards equal opportunity for optimal health and well-being.

Resources and Additional Information

Healthy People 2020

WHO – Social Determinants of Health

To Be Alive Is To Be Vulnerable

Hope your week is off to a good start! This week’s quote focuses on vulnerability. Along with the quote, I am posting a TED talk by social worker Dr. Brené Brown called, “The Power of Vulnerability.” I’ve posted it on Brown is the New Pink in the past, but it’s worth posting again. Brown’s talk is approximately 20 minutes long, and I promise that it will be time well-spent to watch it.

Brown’s TED talk and Madeleine L’Engle’s quote below summarize the seemingly paradoxical truth that has been on my mind: vulnerability is what makes us stronger. Choosing to be our genuine, imperfect selves fosters better and more authentic connections with others and helps develop self-compassion. As I go through the numerous transitions of young adulthood I am continually learning how important it is to be myself, even if that means revealing my fears, doubts, and perceived inadequacies. To pretend like everything is perfect and certain is a disservice to myself and those around me. While I will certainly continue to practice gratitude and maintain a positive outlook, I also strive to own my vulnerability. I want to show my true self to others and to contribute to the message that everyone is worthy of love and belonging despite our imperfections.

“When we were children, we used to think that when we grew up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability, to be alive is to be vulnerable.” – Madeleine L’Engle

Give It All You Got! {Fun Friday}

Woo it’s the weekend!! I am late with my post again this week. Sorry! It was my first week at work, and I was exhausted when I got home yesterday. I stayed late at work to sit it on a family meeting. One of the tougher, but very important, parts of my job will be participating in meetings with families to discuss changing the goals of care from cure or recovery to comfort. The social worker and team of physicians I shadowed yesterday did a wonderful job in the meeting. They explained everything in a way that was easy to understand, and they really took their time and encouraged the family to ask questions and express concerns. The whole week made me excited about working alongside such compassionate people and caring for veterans and their families.

Enough about work, on to this weeks’ fun Friday (technically Saturday) post!


During the summer between my junior and senior year of college I interned at the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Eastern North Carolina. I helped coordinate all kinds of wishes, which was an amazing experience. MAW is such a special organization to me, and I loved a wish story that I saw this week. Hailey Bretzius, 9, decided that her wish was to have author R.J. Palacio visit her school. Palacio wrote the novel WonderWonder is about a fifth grade boy who has a facial deformity. The novel’s message centers on choosing kindness. Hailey, who has a benign tumor that’s been growing between the muscles on the left side of her face, identified with the main character. Though Hailey originally considered going to New York to meet her favorite author, she decided to share her wish with her classmates by inviting Palacio to come to her school. If your interested in reading more about the wish or seeing pictures, follow this link to the article.

The video below is so sweet! When the son in this video was 8 years old, he promised his father he would get him a 57 Chevy on his 57th birthday. Many years later, the son followed through on his promise and surprised his father with the car.

Do you ever have trouble waking up in the morning? This Great Dane puppy has some serious issues with waking up early. The video is adorable and pitiful in the best way.

I tend to post a lot of dog videos, but I decided to wrap things up with a goat video. It’s a whopping 7 seconds long. Give it all you got!

Have a fun and relaxing weekend!!

 

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