The helping field, I often tell my social work students, is a two-way street. While our goal is to help individuals, families, and groups, it is important to remember that the ones we help often help us. When we practice from a strengths perspective, we learn of our clients’ skills. We begin to appreciate and respect their personal talents and unique abilities. If we are willing to open our eyes, the people we help can teach us a thing or two about courage, perspective, and life itself.
For a number of years, I worked at the Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix, Arizona. One day, a pre-school teacher asked me to become part of her lesson plan. My poem, “Things a School Social Worker May See,” is an example of why social work is a two-way street.
Things a School Social Worker May See
Just outside Room 7, five small canes the color
of clouds hang neatly on a wall. Today, my day-
old beard becomes a lesson plan for the eyes
of tiny fingertips. As the teacher explains shaving,
kids without sight feel the foam, the soapy water,
my sandpapered face. The little girl with a creamy
mustache, discovers cinnamon spice cologne. All
hands but one reach up to rub my marbled cheeks.
One pair rolls a piece of Play Doh. The 5-year-old
tells me, “A licorice stick for my sister.” He weighs
the string in his palms, connects both ends and says,
“Now, it’s her necklace.” The teacher snaps photos
and later shows me hands gliding along my clean-
shaven face. In the background, I see a necklace
and its proud craftsman, the boy with 20-20 touch.