Sometimes it’s hard for us to see hope in the work that we do, we see horrible things done to people (both by individuals and systemically too). It can seem as though things just won’t get better or we won’t see changes in our lifetime. I’ve noticed that I can feel particularly hopeless when reflecting on systemic issues and the lack of control I feel about these.
I think the feeling of hopelessness can sometimes be our default, particularly in the child protection space. I’ve seen many workers talk about hopelessness as their client is not making the changes the worker wants and no big improvements are seen. It’s hard to avoid the ‘save the world’ mentality where you want to fix all of the issues. And we forget that often the people that we work with have experienced significant challenges and trauma in their lives and so changes won’t happen overnight and baby steps are needed. We need to remember that even small changes impact on people’s lives and sometimes the full effects of our work might not be seen until we are no longer working with the person.
You might have noticed that my logo is of dandelion seeds, the reason I chose the logo is because for me seeds represent hope. I have often told myself throughout my career that I am ‘planting the seed’. I’ve always clung to this when working with a person and things seem hopeless and when I felt as though I wasn’t making a difference to someone’s life.
This was really illustrated to me when I sat with a woman as she read through her file that was held by the organisation I was working for at the time. As she sat there reading it, she talked me through her thoughts. At the time that she was working with the program she was in a violent relationship and throughout the years that she worked with a caseworker in the program she remained in the relationship . She reflected that her case worker was probably very frustrated with her that she never left the relationship. However the woman told me that she was always listening to the case worker, she said that the worker had educated her on violence and gave information and tools if she was ever to leave the relationship. Further to that the worker was patient, understanding and compassionate which left a lasting impression on the woman that she was worthy and strong. The woman drew on all of this knowledge when she was ready to leave the relationship (which was long after she had stopped working with the program). I thought that it was a shame that the case worker who worked with her would never know the true impact of her work with this woman (she had left the organisation at this point) and I wondered if the worker had at the time felt hopeless watching what this woman and her children were going through. I often think about this scenario years later as I wonder how many of us truly know the impact that we have on people in our work.
We are always planting the seeds when we are working with people and we never know where the seed will float off to and start to grow.
What are your reflections on finding hope in your work? Comment below