A Decade of Lessons

Last week marked 10 years that I am working in social services.  10 years! Wow, I can’t believe its been that long.  Part of me can’t believe I am old enough to have a professional working career that long.  The other part of me can’t believe how fast the 10 years went and feel my age with every ache in my body.

I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into when I started working in social services.  You see I kinda stumbled on this field.  When I was in college, I started out as a business management major.  I loved business and still do to this day but it didn’t feel like the right fit.  I met with a career advisor at my college and I was asked “Would you rather work with people or numbers?”  I can still remember sitting in the office as I answered “people.”  This person introduced me to human services(social services).  I had no idea such a field existed and did not know what to expect but I knew I wanted to work with people.  It was interesting trying to my family what human services was.  I finally just said “I would help people.”

Little did I realize that someone in social services played a huge part in my life.  This person changed the direction my life was going in.  They introduced my family to Milton Hershey School.  And because of this introduction, I was set on a path that allowed me to make better choices for my life.  One of the opportunities that was made available to me was to attend college and get double degrees in business management and human services.  This would most likely not been otherwise.

I remember being very early on in my career thinking 10 years was so far away.  I was not sure how long I would make it in the field..  When I took my first job in the field, I did not know what to expect.  I did not know how much I would grow, the people I would encounter, the stories that would touch my heart, the situations that would break my heart and the friends I would gain.

Here are a few things I learned along the way (Well it ended up being a lot more than a few.)

  • Things are not always as they seem.
  • You can not judge a person by just looking at them and if you do, most likely your judgement will be wrong.
  • Without significant relationship there is no significant change in your life and their life.
  • Building relationships with people can get messy but the rewards are far greater.
  • You have to take time to be present and listen to the person you are with.
  • Listen to the things that are not being said verbally.
  • You have to be willing to hear people out even when they are upset.
  • Remaining calm and listening when someone is upset usually results in them calming down eventually.
  • To be aware and observant of your surroundings.
  • It is better to “Teach a man to fish, because you feed him for a lifetime.” rather than “Giving a man a fish you feed him for a day.”  (Empowering rather than enabling) The quote is from a Chinese Proverb.
  • To do things scared and nervous, eventually they aren’t as scary and nerve racking and rewards are much better than the scared feeling.
  • When to speak up and when to let something go.  Not all battles are worth fighting or are mine to fight.
  • How to advocate and fight hard for someone when the system and or people fail someone.
  • As the person who empowers others, I can not want their change more than they want it.
  • It is better to confront someone directly about an issue that you have with them rather than not confronting it at all or dancing around the tree about the issue.
  • Hurt people hurt people.
  • When people are upset, most likely they are upset at the situation and not you.
  • Not to be so blunt and straightforward.  There is a time when that is needed but most of the time people need a softer approach.
  • To ask questions to help people arrive at their own solutions rather than giving them the solution you think they need.  Often their solution is better than yours. And often they already know the solution that they need.
  • That the process someone goes through is more important than the destination.
  • Tears are created by God when words can not express what breaks your heart.
  • Grief comes in many forms and it is pretty much the loss of anything.  It could include a loss of a person, loss of a relationship, loss of a life they thought they would live but can’t because of a major life change.
  • To not to change my word in the middle of another word, because it could sound like a word that is not appropriate for the work setting.  Thankfully I had a gracious family and they just laughed.
  • Walking the journey with others, looks different for each person.
  • Introduce yourself immediately when you are meeting someone for the first time and you are walking into their home.
  • Everyone’s journey matters

After 10 years, I am a more confident person.  I know who I am.  I know whose I am.  I have a deeper trust in God than I ever have.   I know that God walked this journey even in the hardest moments.  I know that God has given me the grace and the strength to walk this journey of social services for the last 10 years.  I am humbled that God chose me to walk this journey and that my participants have allowed me into their homes and into their lives.  I am grateful for the many lessons I learned along the way and look forward to what else God has to teach me.

 

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