Friday, March 21, 2014

A Big Thank You from a Small Smile

March is Social Work Appreciation Month. Not too many people know that. Not too many people really even know what social work is. But we know, and we appreciate all the appreciation.

If you asked 1,000 social workers why they chose their field I highly doubt a single one of them would say for the great pay and abundance of gratitude for doing a tough job. If in fact one did say that I am willing to bet they're stealing the good meds from a client.

Every social worker understands that they are in a rather thankless profession. Trust me, everyone tells you so from the get go. From your very first course in college the professors make it clear. "Welcome to Intro to Social Work. You're not going to make any money. No one is going to say thank you. Now open your books to page..."

So needless to say when the thank yous do come they stop us in our tracks. They choke us up. They recharge us enough to make it until the next one.

I've had a particularly rough few weeks at work. One of those "when it rains it pours" kind of months. Or more accurately for this winter "when it snows it blizzards". It seems that all of my clients made a pact to go into crisis at the same time. A judge yelled at me on my birthday. I've worked late more days than not. You know, just one of those months.

Today was shaping up to be another long day. I had a late family visit scheduled and had to drive the kids home afterwards.  The visit was for two of my sibling clients, sisters ages 5 and 1.

*This is where I acknowledge my utter amazement and awe for any parent who gets multiple children ready to go anywhere at the same time without losing one, slamming a finger in a door, or shouting anything stronger than fiddle faddle*

We finally finished the visit and it was time to pack up. I had a 5 year old, a 1 year old, car seats for both of them, diaper bag, my purse, backpack, and a 20 oz diet coke to keep me sane.  Just as I had the whole lot of it balanced and headed to the car I realized the 1 year old needed to be changed. I won't lie, I hesitated. I considered just how awful it would be to wait. But then I sighed, put everything down, changed the baby and packed it up again.  Once we finally got ourselves and everything in the car I pulled into DC rush hour traffic and the 5 year old started asking me a million questions while the 1 year old repeatedly kicked the back of my seat. The following conversation took place:

5 year old: Miss Molly can I eat my cookie?
Me: Sure sweetie, but don't give any to your sister right now. She has a bad cough and I don't want her to choke while I'm driving.
Her: Okay
2 minutes pass
Her: I'm sorry Miss Molly
Me: Sorry for what sweetie?
Her: I'm sorry for feeding sister some cookie
Me: *sigh*

Continue with the rush hour honking, never ending questions and continuous seat kicking. It started getting to me. I was pretty peeved. It's Friday. I just want to be home. Why do I do this again? And then from the back seat:

Her: Thank you Miss Molly
Me: Thank you for what sweetie?
Her: Thank you for seeing my daddy. My daddy smiled at me today. Can I see my daddy again soon?

Oh yeah. That's why. I looked in the back seat to respond and she was just sitting there with a cookie crumb covered smile. Happy as a lark to be in rush hour traffic with a frustrated social worker who had answered her last 15 questions with "I don't know".

So yes, the thank yous are few and far between. But when they come they stop us in our tracks. They choke us up. They recharge us enough to make it until the next one.

Happy March to all of my fellow social workers. And thank you for all you do!