My work as a social worker has had me work with a variety of populations in a variety of places. Over the years, I’ve worked with victims of domestic violence, in a children’s hospital, hospice care and have provided counseling to individuals who have suffered trauma, had their loved ones die in public tragedies and struggled with mental illness.
My profession is not one that many feel comfortable talking about. Stating I am a social worker is sure to guarantee sad looks. Many friends and family members simply do not ask about my work and an elderly relative often stated about my work as a grief counselor. “I’m so glad you do what you do. Those people need you.”
It’s been only out of respect that I haven’t responded “We are all those people!”
As a social worker, I have been called to advocate for those people. Although I was raised into a world with the privilege of a loving family that was educated, financially comfortable and fit into the norm; I have learned that I am not that different from those people.
Those people have been young women of my age who became trapped in abusive relationships that sometimes included children. Abusive relationships happen in every neighborhood and in every age range. Abusive relationships don’t always include physical violence and can be in the form of emotional abuse, control of the finances and constant statements of belittlement. 1 in 4 women will become one of those people and become a victim of domestic violence. It is likely that you could be or know one of those people.
1 in 4 individuals will be diagnosed with a mental illness in their lifetime. One of those people could be your co-worker, your physician, your barista or your friend. You could be one of those people.
Our country is seeing an epidemic of individuals struggling with weight issues who fall into the overweight or obese category. It is the minority that does not fall into being one of those people.
When one individual dies, at a minimum 9 people will grieve in some way for them. If you love someone, you will be one of those people who grieve the loss of a parent, partner, child or friend.
Despite the advances of medical technology, the one activity that each of us will have in common is death. At some time or the other, we will each be one of those people. Our life could be suddenly over in a car accident or limited with the knowledge we have a terminal illness. Because we are alive, we are each one of those people who will die.
It can become very easy to feel our lives are different from others. It can also become very easy to feel we don’t understand the lifestyle or choices that others make. Those people are the ones who we don’t understand. Those people are perhaps the ones we fear becoming. Those people can make us uncomfortable.
With the multitude of events over the past two weeks, I have had many emotions. I have ached over the deaths in Charleston and questioned how anyone could be one of those people with so much hatred. I could easily be in a place where I become one of those people attacked. I have been one of those people who have prayed for comfort for the city and the loved ones who are grieving.
I felt such happiness last week as the Supreme Court decision was announced. Those people who could now marry are my friends Keith and Sean, Becky and Jennifer, Sharon and Phyllis and so many others. Those people live, work and love just as I do and they deserve the same privileges that I have.
At some point, each of us will fall into the category of those people. It is through discussions, sharing stories and advocating that we educated in regards to the struggles of others. With acceptance and understanding, we help everyone to realize it is ok to be one of those people.
I am grateful that I am able to live my life realizing that I am truly not much different from others regardless of who they are.
This week I challenge you to look around you and realize you are one of those people.