Today I wish to share a few learnings I picked up since I started a new journey in the social sector some five years ago. For those of you who are planning a career in social service or even those not into professional social service but have a soft heart for the less fortunate, I hope some of my learnings will be useful.
Those of us who are in journalism or in creative field know the kind of happiness or ‘the kick’, as we call it, that we receive when we get a byline or when one of our headlines becomes a talking point.
I have completed more than a quarter of a century in journalism. But today I have no qualms about admitting that the “kicks” and happiness that I enjoyed in my career were nothing compared to the happiness that I have experienced ever since I embarked on a new journey.
The turning point was a very very serious car accident on Salem-Bangalore highway where my family and I saw death face to face but survived. But I thank the Almighty for that accident. Because that’s when I thought of families that lose their breadwinners due to such accidents.
You know when families lose their breadwinners, their world collapses. Then the children stop their studies as their priority becomes food. But with help and guidance, they can be rescued.
I didn’t want to waste the second life that God gave me and my family. That’s when I decided to start an initiative called A BRIDGE Over Troubled Waters to help such families. BRIDGE became an anchor for such families providing them emotional and financial support. We pay for children’s studies, spend weekends with them and help find a job for someone in the family so that they can stand on their own.
Friends, as I said in the beginning, the kind of happiness that I get when I see their happy faces and their children running to me showing their academic reports and other little achievements, is way way above the so-called “kicks” I used to derive at my official work. That happiness is far superior to the happiness I had when I received my first salary, or when I bought my first house, or when I bought my first car.
This was how I discovered what I believe, to be the greatest truth in life, that is, there is no greater happiness in life than wiping a tear from someone’s face and be the reason for that person’s happiness.
Today, I am inviting you to share this happiness with me. To those of you who are thinking of taking up social work as a career, I want to tell you, this is a journey that is more rewarding than many others.
But I need to also warn you of the dangers on the way.
This won’t be rewarding if you consider it as a job. This won’t be rewarding if you are thinking of earning a high salaryThis won’t be rewarding if you do not have the qualities of empathy, emotional intelligence, and patience.
If you seriously want to pursue this journey, I will tell you a few things to take along this journey.
Number 1. PASSION
You should love what you do. If you do not love it, you will soon develop what we call job fatigue.
Number 2. PATIENCE
You must always remember that you are not dealing with equals. They are not always at your level of understanding. They are not from the best of the backgrounds. Therefore, they may not understand or do many things that you try to tell them. So you have to be really patient with them.
Number 3. COMPASSION
This comes from empathy. You must be able to feel with them in their troubles. You might wonder, why can’t they behave in a particular way. That is your intelligence, that is talking. Feel with them, forgive them and be benevolent.
Number 4. LISTENING SKILLS
When you meet many people, they may all have similar stories to tell. You could get tired of listening to them. But remember this, for each of them, their story is unique. They think no one suffers in the world as much as them. Listen patiently.
Number 5. A SENSE OF BALANCE
This is very important. While you are passionate about the people and your work, remember to maintain a sense of balance, a distance. You have a life of your own, your family, your interests. While empathising with the needy, you also need to set your boundaries. OR else you could end up suffering what someone said, “compassion fatigue”. And you could end up needing another social worker to help you.
There is also a very very important thing you should avoid if you are serious about this journey. That is, NEVER EVER BE CONDESCENDING. This is very important. Never show an attitude of patronising superiority. Even if you do not help anyone, please please never be patronising. Always put yourself in their position. Remember, we also could have been in their position if we were not lukcy. Therefore, have that humility.
So friends, if you have the qualities that I just mentioned, never hesitate to take this road less travelled. You will realise, as the poet Robert Frost said, that it would make all the difference.