When I think about how much, as a social worker, I must accomplish in a day, a week, or a month just to stay above water, the enormity of each task can be daunting. Even when I was a  field worker, there were always deadlines looming.  There were families to be seen; hearings to attend; reports to write; vendors to pay and so many meetings.  When I think of  the demands on each staff, whether they are a worker or a director, I often wonder how anything gets accomplished at all.  Clients depend on us to help them navigate their crisis while helping them to develop transferable skills for coping, parenting and communicating.  Our superiors depend on us to complete the mounds of paperwork associated with every single aspect of the job.  And, the community expects us to keep children safe and families together without making a single mistake. 


Social Workers, it should come as no surprise,  sometimes just give up when they can’t see a way to do it all.  They just can’t vision the finish line.  

A staff member and I were discussing a project that had been ongoing for months.  We seemed to take a few steps ahead just to encounter a barrier which would force us to take a step back. She told me that day  that she felt like she was in an old rowboat.  She had been rowing so long, but the shore was still so far away she didn’t think she could reach it.

I told her that was because of where she was sitting in the boat.  Granted the lake (project) was huge and the boat had hit some logs along the way.  But she was facing the oncoming shore and it still looked so impossible to reach. I told her if she turned and looked at the beach she had started from, she would notice that it was even further away.  She was more than halfway there.  I also pointed out some of the successes she had already achieved during the process. A smile crossed her face and She admitted She hadn’t been thinking about all the successes her team had achieved in the process.  She left with renewed determination to keep rowing that boat.

Your vantage point is important.  The perspective from which you view your situation can build you up or it can tear you down. It is also very important to celebrate small successes. When a child learns ways to express anger and fear without lashing out; that is a success.  When a homeless mother gets an apt and learns to make and live within a budget: that is a success.  Take the time to celebrate even if no one else does. And, when you think you cannot go another step, I challenge you.  Look how far you have already come.

One thought on “Where You Sit on the Boat

  1. A very good description of the challenges social workers face. A reminder of all the good work is necessary and much needed because the negative is more often than not highlighted.


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