I spent the last two days at the Missouri Association for Social Welfare’s annual conference. It’s always a different experience when you’re helping put on the conference instead of just attending, but let’s be honest, it’s not too hard to get me fired up and inspired. By the end of it, I had yet another renewed focus of what my role is and why I do what I do.
These past few months it feels like with the more conferences I go to and the more service events I help out with, the more grateful I am for my parents and my upbringing. Just like with Project Homeless Connect last Friday, the last two days were spent hearing heart-breaking stories and discussing how we can make a difference.
And let me tell you, people – these are not things grad school teaches you or prepares you to face.
Lately I’ve been reminded of one of the readings I did for a class probably a year and a half ago. It was an interview with Mechai Viravaldya about his public health efforts with family planning and STD prevention in Thailand. At one point in the interview he made this comment:
As a youngster, I was taught by my parents, who were both physicians, that they expected something sensible out of having spent all this money on the education of their children, something that would make the world a little bit better and would help a few people. Their admonition to me was, ‘If people like you work only for money, who will help the poor? We educated you to help other people.’ This was the mandate and life understanding that I received from my parents. Through public service, I have worked to repay that debt to them ever since.
I love that I have the opportunity to do what I do, which is what I wrote about in my gratitude journal yesterday (as a side note: if the idea of a gratitude journal at all intrigues you, I highly recommend doing it – I love it!) At times, the line of work can be overwhelming, emotional and feels like an uphill battle. It’d be easy to be cynical or to stop listening to the heart-breaking stories. But that’s not what I went to school for or how I want to live my life. I’ll just have to learn to bring a box of kleenex and a stack of thank you cards to future conferences and service events…