The last day of class was this week, and this will most likely be the final blogpost of the year on this site. It’s a little bittersweet, because I have enjoyed this dialogue with you all, but if people ever want to hear more from me, they can always check out my other site, spotofwhimsy.wordpress.com (which I update occasionally).
The conversation in class brought up some fresh thoughts. As we discussed systems for supporting single moms, I thought it was interesting that many of our suggestions related to support through employment. We suggested giving employees a living wage, flexible work hours, paid time off for minimum wage jobs. Support in many ways hinged on good employment and benefits associated with it. It is such a break through when a single parent is able to find a good job that supports themselves and their family. And with some single moms taking on most or full responsibility for parenting, that can be a huge relief. However, doing minimum, or next to minimum, wage work when also caring for multiple children without the support of a spouse is at the very least exhausting, giving families no margin. The amount of stress that moms go through takes a toll on their health, and often these jobs do not have health insurance coverage. Does a woman have a choice to find something better? Is life just hard, hard for most and even harder for some? I know families who push through each day, and find little ways to appreciate the moment even when things are tough. But wouldn’t it also be great if they had the kind of support they needed to receive such things as affordable healthcare, work flexibility, paid time off, to properly care for their loved ones, as well as themselves?
A line from this TV show I was watching recently stuck out to me: “Better doesn’t mean better for everyone. Better always means worse for some.” What is the better that we’re seeking, who benefits, and who loses out? What does it mean to lose? What is gain?
I wonder if part of the hurdle is our overly individualistic society. Many of the systems proposed in our group for single moms related to employment and policy change for better access to federal support because these structures allow us to be self-sufficient and self-reliant. That’s not a bad thing, but what if there were ways to catalyze on our weaknesses to strengthen community bonds? To create interdependence and not just independence? What are the barriers to interdependence? What if we got really good at creating networks where people mutually cared for each other, and helped each other as needed? What would it take to build trust between people, negate shame and pain of rejection, for people to never betray each other or break each others’ hearts and persons? Being part of whole systems’ change is real and necessary, but what are the small ways that we enact change in our daily lives? I’m continually asking myself those questions, of the ways that we interact with the people and environment around us in all our ups and downs, and how that influences our world.
Brokenness of relationship structures is the root of so many problems in my mind. Systemic racism, oppression of people with all kinds of intersecting positionalities, the cultural gaps between socioeconomic status. As a Christian, the gospel to me is all about restoring relationships and breaking off chains of oppression, but people wield scripture in many different ways. I defer to the Holy Spirit (like checking in with your conscience) to bring everything into alignment. But that’s a whole other conversation.
Social workers (whether we intend to define ourselves as such after graduation or not) dive into the gap between available assistance and need. Some of how we define our work comes out of our capitalist, individualistic society that stretch back into our history rooted in Western thought and values. In many ways we have the values and thoughts to create systems that are more communal while also providing quality services with accessibility to many people. As affiliates of the University of Michigan, we also have campus resources that can be disseminated into many different spheres. Social workers weave together systems, brokenness, disintegration by striving to value the dignity and worth of all people, even those who we may disagree with. We see through the lenses of intersectional frameworks and looking at the whole person- we don’t just connect people to services but through service and communication in our professional spheres, help care for the whole selves.
These are an amalgamation of thoughts, so I apologize if its a little incoherent. It may be impossible to wrap this up with a pretty bow, but in summation, we each have the power to make the world a better place, from the micro to the macro. Who knows the trial each person faces, but we think in ways that can diminish some of that suffering across systems. I’m not sure where each of us will be in ten, twenty, fifty years, but I hope that when we look back, we will be proud of the work we’ve done and what we fought for. And most importantly, who and how we loved. That makes all the difference.