Home > Human Nature, Life, passion, School, social work > What can’t we do? (A love letter to humanity)

What can’t we do? (A love letter to humanity)

I had to make two trips to South Philly today. The first trip I entirely looked forward to, as it was judo practice and Sunday is my favorite practice day. The second trip was for a class assignment. Although I am on the clinical track, I’m taking a macro elective this semester on community organizing and development. This assignment entails selecting two community events (rally/demonstration, planning meeting, membership meeting, etc.) and then writing a short reflection on the community capacity present and the existing organizing strategies. Tonight, I was going to the Founding Convention for P.O.W.E.R. (Philadelphians Organizing to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild). P.O.W.E.R. is an organization of organizations, primarily of different religious congregations, whose goal is to improve literacy, employment, housing, and safety for all Philadelphians. Now, these are all things that are important to me. Why else would I be in social work school right now? However, I really did not want to go. Laziness. Feeling like I should be doing other work. Laziness compounded with more laziness.  But it was for school, and I like getting A’s, so I went back to South Philly.

Roughly 2.5 seconds of arriving at the church for the convention, I thought, “I’m so dumb. Of course I want to be here.” The church was PACKED. There was singing and smiling and hand-shaking. I was nearly knocked over by this incredible blast of energy from all these people from different spiritual, cultural, racial, and class backgrounds.  They had a mission. That’s all that mattered. Everyone was welcome to join them.

I have been to my fair share of events like this, but every time the dominant feeling was urgency. Walking out of those sort of meetings, I sometimes felt like the world was going to end if the organization’s goals were not accomplished. It was motivating, but maybe not empowering. P.O.W.E.R.’s convention was nothing BUT empowering. Yes, each speaker conveyed the urgency of the state of Philadelphia. Our unemployment rate is 11% and twice that among African Americans and Latinos. Our literacy proficiency and high school graduation rates are shameful. People who are willing and able to work cannot get jobs. But the community leaders tempered the potential for doubt and hopelessness by injecting gentle teasing about liberal and conservative perspectives, playful scolding of local officials to remain accountable to their pledges, and as I mentioned before, lots of singing.

I can’t predict how successful P.O.W.E.R. will be in achieving its goals. I can say that for those two hours, I was in love with humanity. Like head over heels in love. Feeling the enthusiasm, the hope, the determination, and the overwhelming compassion for the people that live in this city generated by each person in that church made me smile, made me tear up, and at one point, actually squeal with delight. Most of the time, working in social services is depressing. I often feel hopeless either about various public systems, my ability to effectively work with clients, and the general sense of apathy surrounding real change, however you may define it.  But little moments like tonight, I think, do have the potential to create some sort of impact. These are also the little moments that make so glad that I’m in social work. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

  1. September 25, 2011 at 23:31

    “In love with humanity”….that is what I’m feeling right now as well after a full day of hearing teachers talk about what they experience. Lori, you know, sometimes I want so hard to do so much more that I forget to acknowledge that I showed up. I came. I’m here. And just like you showed up tonight, I anticipate (and look forward to) you showing up, ready for action, armed with tools (experience and education) to make change. Just let me know the date and the time, girl, and I’m there with you! 🙂

  2. September 25, 2011 at 23:49


    Together we are stronger and I feel (after 25 years as a Clinical Social Worker…mostly practicing as a Child & Family Therapist, and as a consultant to educational systems) that there is nothing we cannot do. I haven’t found this field depressing in the least (including working in the arenas of substance absue and hospice) and still have the same passion, vision and belief that we can change a LOT. Yes, we can…and with bright and shining stars such as yourself, coming up the ranks, I know we will continue to do the same!

    As long as we exercise our voice…and back that up with action….we have HOPE!

    “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. ” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Wendy @Kidlutions

  3. September 26, 2011 at 12:05

    @Wendy, it’s so wonderful to hear from someone in the field that continues to be in love with their work! That is truly inspiring to me, as I have met people several years into their work and already have become jaded. Thank you so much for sharing!

    @Brandi: You and I one day are going to do something together–run a program, run an agency. I don’t know what yet, but I know it’s going to be awesome. Maybe when Ayva takes off for college. In the meantime, we’ll both keep getting our hands in the dirt and learning as much as we can. x0x0x0!

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