Jen and Mad are expanding their Just Posts with a beautiful challenge for the coming year. Volunteerism.
Which, of course, got me thinking.
My background in social work. I've got a b.s in it. For real. B.S.
I spent four years in my undergrad planning to save my small corner of the world. I learned so much about the field of social work at a individual, group, and community level. I learned how to counsel. How to case manage. I learned about stress management and boundaries. I learned about burn out. About professionalism in human services. About communication. It was a fantastic education and my excitement was huge. I was social work student of the year in 2000. I graduated summa cum laude. I could hardly pick a focus. Medical social work? Government? Homeless programs? Teen moms? Not-for-profit? Corporate?
The possibilities were endless and I was excited!
I ended up working with people with disabilities in a government case management role. It fit my personality and I loved this population of people. What a great feeling it was, to help people and their families get all of the supports that they need.
After several years working in this position, my life had really changed. I had a child. Suddenly, my focus was not on saving people of the world. It was in rearing just this little one. She was my Focus. I realized that I needed a change, that would be better for my family, better for me. I also disliked the hands-off nature of case management. I saw many ill-equipped people trying to educate and assist people with disabilities, and do a crappy job of it. I wanted to get my hands dirty, to get in there and try to make a real difference.
I went back to school and earned a master's of education in special education. It took my two years and eight months. Many tears. Many miles.
Here I am today, now trying to rear two small ones. Two people who have my Focus. And twenty-seven teenagers with special needs, who I am also trying to help out. I am a teacher.
So my focus is on my family and my career. My home and my marriage. We go to church (sometimes). A church that is very service driven. A church that challenges people to help the least of us. A church that is not satisfied with only attendance.
I often have guilt. Over my self-absorption. What about all of those other things I wanted to do? The teen moms? The sick children? The homeless? The aging veterans?
But self-absorption is certainly not the right term. I haven't had a hair cut in 7 months (really). I take care of many others before myself. But there are the "others", the populations of those in need that I wanted to save as a social worker.
It becomes a choice for me. Do I spread myself more thin with a few hours a month at the Children's Hospital or Veteran's Home? Or do I make a commitment to giving more energy and more passion to the things I am already doing?
I will be a better teacher. I will be a better wife. I will be a better mother.
Those are the things that this year, I am volunteering to do. This year, I will do better for those that I am already committed to.
When my children are older, when they are more portable, we will help our community. I will teach my children to give back. I will teach my children to respect and honor difference. We will be a family that volunteers. I will be a retired teacher who possibly starts her own private not-for-profit. Or the teacher/social worker who does something wonderful for our community. Or the one who runs for local office on a platform that speaks up for people with exceptionalities. Something that does make a difference. It will involve my passions and my skills.
But for now, I will be dormant. One who stays sane at home. And who does right by the wee ones in my home. I resolve to do better here. And extend myself perhaps a bit more at church, through the programs that are already established there.
We can give of ourselves more this year than last.
I am going to do that.