How Do We Heal?

Broken heart_ shutterstock_172062899

This question and its answer is our work as social workers. We spend our lives seeking, applying, and crafting answers. We pass our knowledge to subsequent generations of social workers and invite them to continue the work.  Each one of us is obligated by our caring to contribute our voices, our practice experiences, our wisdom, our insights, our struggles both to those who suffer and to the next generation of practitioners, who will continue to refine the answer in better and more expert ways. L’dor vador.

Years ago, I watched a documentary on Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who, as a young intern, was assigned to two hospital wards of terminally ill children. On one ward the night logs showed the heavy use of pain medications and sleeping pills to help frightened children sleep. On the other ward, nursing logs showed little drug use. The children did not fret through the night, they slept. When she investigated, she found that on the ward where children slept, the night cleaning woman talked and sang to the children as she mopped the floors. She intuitively provided what the children needed—someone to recognize their subjectivity, someone who was not afraid of their fear or pain, someone who would accompany them through the night. When no one else was there, this woman listened to their fears, sang to them and held their hands. These children would not get well, but they could heal. I knew then that I wanted to join a profession devoted to keeping watch with those in pain, accompanying those in need through their journey. I wanted to listen without flinching to stories of fear and pain knowing that the moments of telling contained the seeds of healing. Years later I would lose a child and would again appreciate the value of having someone listen to the sound of a heart breaking knowing that the sound that came next might be that of a heart repairing.

I invite you to consider a career in social work. Join with us to repair a fractured world by repairing fractured hearts, and families, and homes all the while knowing that your presence in someone’s life has unlimited power to change a life.  Few people can say that they alter the world simply by going to the office each day. But as social workers, when one child heals through our work, generations are impacted and life chances are different. When a couple keeps their marriage together, when someone celebrates another day sober, when a family can come together to mourn the loss of an elder instead of splintering under grief’s weight, when someone decides not to jump or not to pull the trigger, when someone feels safer because we are there, we have altered the course of history—altered how lives will unfold, altered the legacy that will be handed to subsequent generations. As social workers, who we are and what we do matters.

Author Margaret Weiss tells us, “We each have within ourselves the ability to shape our own destinies…. But, more important, each of us has an equal ability to shape the destiny of the universe.”  At Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University we’ve been shaping the universe for the last 60 years. Come be a part of that work. We’re saving a seat for you.


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