A very special kind of light

Last evening,  I talked with some pretty awesome people. They are individuals that I once had the privledge of calling colleagues. We were gathered to honor foster parents, who are, in their own right, Angels-made-flesh. Miraculously, they all managed to put aside the misery they witness every day, along with the rampant frustration that comes from trying to be humane within the confines of a relentlessly merciless system.

Everyone knows the story – impossibly high caseloads, insurmountable demands, unrealistic reputations – But few actually care. It’s a secret world where the public at large would rather not go. It’s messy and it’s ugly. When it spills over into society because something so horrendous occurs that it makes the newspaper, people react by blaming the social workers. They’re not, deep down, angry at them, just annoyed that their day was darkened by such a painful, unthinkable story. Child abuse is not for the faint of heart. And yet, these amazing people – social workers and foster parents – show up every single day. Believe me when I tell you that there are days when it feels like rushing into a burning building or leaping onto a sinking ship.

Nobody in your family or circle of friends has a clue why you do it. Hell, most of them don’t really know what it is that you do.  You have very few allies among the media, the state legislature, the public or even your own administration.  It’s a very lonely profession, despite the fact that you are surrounded by people almost all of the time. Usually, it’s you against the world. People think that it’s stressful because of the clients you serve. Not true. We expect them to be difficult. And we’re really good at breaking through those barriers. It’s the resistance from just about everyone else that wears us down.

Yet, these amazing individuals not only show up every day – They somehow manage to smile and laugh and even sing, right in the face of all that ugliness – No matter how dark, how hopeless, how frustrated or how gut-wrenchingly sad they feel.

I am often asked if I miss my job and I answer honestly with a resounding NO. But there are things I miss about it. The incredible perspective one gets from being immersed in the real world, is one. Mostly I miss being a part of this secret society of angels among us. They share the kind of bond that I imagine also comes from serving in the military together or on a police force. Facing daily danger and indomitable responsibilities unites people. We have each other’s backs because no one else will.

So, if you know a social worker or a foster parent, show them some love this weekend. Do something kind for them. It’s not easy to be the light that still shines through all that darkness. If that light ever burns out, it will be a very sad day, indeed, for the rest of us. And, if you are a social worker or a foster parent, God bless you.


12 thoughts on “A very special kind of light

  1. What a beautiful tribute! My Mom was a foster child from age 4 through high school graduation. My sister-in-law was a social worker, then became a foster parent, eventually adopting 2 sisters. The baby succumbed to leukemia at age 3 after a battle with chemo. This was in the late 1970’s when treatments were not often successful. I also had a neighbor who has been a foster parent for several years. She also adopted 2 sisters who were in her care and is loving raising them since her own children are grown. She is now a Mom to 2 girls entering their teen years and a grandma to 3 little ones. All of these women have had challenges, but also triumphs. They have taught me so much about life and compassion and never giving up on difficult situations. I admire all social workers and foster parents.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It amazes me that some of the toughest jobs in the world have some of the biggest uphill battles to fight with the systems they work within.

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  3. I can’t tell you how moved I am by this beautiful tribute. If ONLY I had the courage way back when to follow through and become a social worker but I knew my heart would not survive the bureaucracy and I would have wanted to take every single child home with me. These are the true angels of light indeed.

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  4. Absolutely beautiful!! I too have felt your pain after over 20 years in EMS, I’ve been praised during birth and ridiculed during death. We too hide and bury our emotions because we live in a society that turns a blind eye to the horror and pain that you have seen on a daily basis and just do not understand….nor want to. Society rewards when good is done and persecutes when outcomes are bad, but sometimes you have tried to help out a child/family and the outcome was not favorable so society’s need to blame is immediately thrown at you. My Dad was adopted and raised by a great family. They taught him about life and surviving in this crazy world….he then passed that on to his children. For that, I am very thankful. It certainly doesn’t go without notice, that he may have been placed with a not so loving or caring family as he was, had it not been for a dedicated social worker back then. I’m not sure if that was their title but regardless, whomever got him to the family he was with was truly an Angel from Heaven looking over him. This in turn gave him a great life!!
    My hats off to you and all of your colleagues for all that you do and have done!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know it, Pat! Thank you for all the love you have given to so many babies & children thru the years. I never could have done my job without you. XO


  5. I also think the same can be said for teachers. Most days it can be a thankless job, but when you make even one small connection, it makes it all worth it. I love your blogs and think you should publish them. There is something for everyone in all of your words of wisdom. Thanks for writing it.

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