My first semester of graduate school is almost over. As of today, three of my six classes are complete; I still have one paper and two exams to finish in the next week or so, but this is decidedly manageable.
After some sort of physiological and emotional breakdown this morning in my cohort seminar, I realized that I have dealt with an immense learning curve this semester. Nearly everything I am currently doing and even thinking about on a day-to-day basis is completely different from what I was doing and thinking about on a day-to-day basis six months ago. I have acquired a lot of new skills and exercised a lot of new muscles during these months. When I really think about it and look at it comprehensively, it’s quite overwhelming. But I’m pretty proud to be here.
My internship this semester is at an outpatient clinic that treats patients with chronic, debilitating diseases. I’m not writing about it here mostly for reasons of confidentiality — the stories of the people I have met are more than incredible, but I don’t think I can share them here without providing more detail than would be appropriate. Let it suffice to say that I am learning as much about social work as I am about the beauty and resilience of the human spirit, even in the face of the most dreadful adversity.
I think the most important thing I’ve realized thus far, the common thread through the various experiences, is that we all just want to feel like we’re not alone.
There are many times in this work when there is nothing I or any social worker can say or do to make the situation better. I can’t cure a disease; I can’t magically heal a family that has lost its father; I don’t have much to offer parents whose child will die an untimely death. In these instances, the only thing I can do is sit with the grief and the people it is affecting. I can make sure they are not alone in that grief. I can be present. Insignificant as it may seem, it does makes a difference — a small one at first, but it’s one that grows into the ability to cope.
The capacity and, I believe, tendency we have to raise barns together, to care for one another and to be cared for: This is what makes us human. It is essential to us. It is the only thing that will get us through. And it gives me such a profound sense of hope. We shall not walk alone.
“take my hand, we’re gonna go where we can shine.” -david gray