Friday, December 28, 2007

Giving More

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.


Mimi said...

This is a great post, I think: very honest and very persuasive. I think we all go through phases of our lives when we have more or less of ourselves to give to others closer to and more distant from us.

I think devoting yourself to your kids, your marriage, and your work is pretty much enough to expect of yourself: these years are busy, and by taking care of yourself and your loved ones, you are in fact doing a great service to the world: you are raising great kids, keeping a marriage together, and serving the population as a teacher.

When you were single, when you were childless, and maybe later when your kids are older, you will have more of yourself left over at the end of the day.

But you are working plenty hard enough right now: don't discount the importance (and I don't think you do ...) of the great good that comes from caring for your own children, your own family.

Very best wishes for a happy new year ...

Midwest Beach Girl said...

Perhaps the age of technology makes us feel like we can literally be in two places at once. These expectations of being able to save everyone is because we know of everyone's problems. Remember when going above and beyond was taking your neighbor food after they had surgery. Now we have to do that on our way to serving soup to 100 people at the local soup kitchen to feel like we are giving back. You are on the right track! You can only eat the elephant one bite at a time!

Mama said...

Hey, OM, Rosa Parks didn't have a plan, she just sat there. I don't think we always get to be deliberate about our "causes" (although planning is a good thing) they just happen. I can tell you are ready for the cause that is coming your way. You are so well prepared that it will sneak up on you. You may not know you did anything but someone else will. Just because you get paid doesn't mean you don't volunteer your time to your students, their families and your peers. As an elder in our church and school I try to do more so our young moms can feel okay about spending time with their families. I think the young man who caused all the sadness at Von Mar needed a mom or teacher like you. Being a "good" mom is the hardest most important job in all of Creation. I love being 56, I don't have guilt, I just try to do better. And I'm glad when I wake up in the a.m. to have more time to do better."Maam, your 20 minutes is up." TTFN

p.s. I LOVE your 2008 goals.

nikkis30by30 said...

"Maam your 20 minutes is up"!!! LOL!!! Aunt J is cracking me up!!!

However, like her, I think you are well on your way to doing good. I also think that calling time at home with a family after working a full day and trying to take care of a home in the mix is hardly what one can call "sane".

I think that what you do now, in this time, is perfect. God sees what you do. He knows what is in your heart. You are a good person and always will be. It's so hard these days to accomplish all we want. We still have time. Relax. We are young. Someday soon we will be calling each other on our way to our next fund raiser. We will do it. Be patient, as it seems you are.


jen said...

what a terrific post. i, too, as we embarked on this path felt so much of what you are saying, that i could be doing better at things i am currently doing - and how important that is to me, too. and how to make it all fit.

brava, sister. brava.

Jenifer said...

You nailed it. There is just nothing left right now for me at the end of the day. I am on the School Council and I consider that my volunteer time since I devote my time and energy back to the school - the place my girls spend many hours.

Besides that it is really all about keeping our home and family humming without too many hiccups. That is what I am devoted to right now. It is a cause I am passionate about and in a sense that is what giving of yourself is.

bubandpie said...

Thank you for articulating this for me. The call for volunteerism went out literally just as I was wrapping up the teen moms' program that I did through most of the fall. I'm glad I did it - really glad - but I was stretched to the breaking point last fall and I need to pull back for a few months now. Maybe in the spring I'll be ready to look at my schedule and figure out where there's a window to do something more - but not now.

Beck said...

I like thinking about the seasons of life - right now I'm too busy to do as much volunteering as I'd like, but in a few years I'll have much more time and right now, raising my kids and focusing my energy more that way is the right place for me.

Aliki2006 said...

This was wonderful, and thoughtful. I'm fortunate in that my work teaching at the college where I teach does provide me with service projects I help the students organize, so I'll work harder at helping to motivate them this coming semester.

You're so right--we have work to do at home to instill these values in our kids...

Mad Hatter said...

I have so much respect for what you say here. You are right about it. All of it.

I often feel that I am barely doing adequate work when it comes to my career and family--that I need to try harder there first. And with a young child, there really isn't time for much else at all.

Add to that, the fact that I recently (a year or so ago) came off an intense volunteer commitment that nearly flattened me. Seriously, it drove me to the brink of depression and made alcohol look oh so tempting. So, really, I'm not sure I want to get my feet wet again.

Having said that, I do plan to volunteer just a wee bit and my reason for doing so is different than anything I have yet articulated on the blog. Doing the JPs takes a lot of time. I sometimes look at how I budget my time and want to kick myself that I give such a large proportion of my social justice self to the internet instead of giving anything back to my local community. I need to volunteer simply so that I will be forced to right that balance in my life.

Occidental Girl said...

There is a time for everything, right? It may not be the right time now to volunteer a lot, but maybe later. That's what you said, and I agree.

It doesn't make much sense to spread yourself too thin. Eventually, you will crash and then be no good to anyone, or your self. Good for you for recognizing that!