It’s not that I no longer care. It’s the fact that I care so much and yet continue to be placed in situations and in positions where I am powerless to actually act on that care. Compassion is one thing, but acting on your compassion is a whole nother level. I hate that in so many systems, the social worker or community worker is placed in a position that they are required to do nothing more than place band-aids on huge, open wounds. They are employed to fill a position to give the illusion that the company is doing their due diligence in serving the people. They are bright, genuine, pure-hearted individuals who want nothing more than to make a difference in the lives of the forgotten and disadvantaged and to create transformation in their community, but, their hands are tied and their voices are silenced underneath businesses that only allow them to go so far. There’s this thing called first-order change, where you treat the symptoms in the community but fail to address the actual causes to these problems.
This is 90% of social services that we see in our communities. We see metaphorical band-aids, we see welfare programs, we see people giving away toys and bikes, we see free food programs, we see community centers for after school programs, and we see great fitness programs. These events make my heart beat. However, after years of doing them, I became disgruntled. Working in the same community, doing the same thing for years, you begin to wake up to the real problems. I began to hate giving away free books when I knew that the kids literally could not read. The issue was bigger than the kids don’t read in this community, I wanted to know why the hell these kids are all in the way in Middle School, and can’t even read elementary books. Where did we fail them in the system and why are we allowing it to continue? I grew tired of sitting through wack ass, dry ass therapy groups for teenage girls that did not heal their real issues and where we discussed concepts of freedom, when they truly were oppressed and being pimped by the system. Yes, I loved them, but in my position, there was only so much I could do. I wanted to truly love them, but how could I when the system I worked for was corrupt and broken? How could I help the people I saw everyday when the system I worked for scrutinized me and stepped in front of me when I tried to get to the root of the real problem?
Second-order change focuses on changing the systems that create the problems rather than just addressing the problematic symptoms. This is where I realized why I was so frustrated in every job I went to. This is where I realized why I began to even question if this is the field for me anymore. This is where I realized why I was feeling like I spent all those years in school for nothing and you know what maybe I don’t want to help people anymore. I was burnt out. I was burnt out from wanting so much for my community that I served and yet did not have the power to do anything substantial about it. Imagine having a single mother sitting across from you at your desk crying and pleading with you to help her, you want to, she has a simple request, but policies and procedures prevent you from offering her anything more than a band-aid response to something that requires surgery. Imagine having an elderly and utterly helpless man sitting across from you sincerely needing help, you care about him but sadly the big pharmaceutical companies, money hungry insurance companies and your corporate office cares more about dollar bills and numbers than his life. Imagine being caught in the middle of two vastly different worlds. Imagine applying for a position thinking that it will put you in a position to change lives when it actually ends up just making you a pawn in a sick and twisted game. I want out.
I desire to create real, lasting change. I desire to be 100% for the people. I desire to work freely out of my compassion with no politics and corruption involved. I want to fix the broken systems. To be honest though, I’ve grown to believe that these systems aren’t broken, they were created strategically to take advantage of and exploit the poor, the overlooked and the hurting. These systems were not created in our favor and it shows. How can I call myself an advocate, a social worker, someone who seeks justice, if I am forced to look at people in need everyday and tell them, “that’s just the way it is”, and offer them a subpar service to appease them only for a moment? How can I sit idly and watch injustices happen all around me, directly affecting the people I know that I am called to fight for? How can I just “do a job” that my heart is no longer in? How can I do mundane work day in and day out knowing that I’m not healing the roots of the issues but merely just handing the community medicine that covers up symptoms? It’s like we are offering our people medicine to treat the SYMPTOMS, but the illness still runs rampant. We offer them more and more medicine…when can we truly heal them?
This is the revolution that needs to happen in the social service industry. We need to heal our communities. We need to dig deep, work together and aim to change the SYSTEMS that create the problems that we see. If we are not aiming at rectifying the systems, we are not truly healing the people we serve, we are just making them comfortable inside of a broken system set up for them to fail.