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The Privilege of my Career

August 6, 2014

I recently sat down to prepare my thoughts around my field and the individuals I work with. Whenever I do this, the word privilege comes to mind. For me, it is truly an honor and a privilege to work as intimately as I do with the individuals I work with. Over the years, at every organization I’ve been a part of, I’ve seen coworkers treat the individuals they work with as something other than human. This could be taking setting boundaries too far, it could be burn out or it could be to protect against burn out. Who knows. But, I do know you’re not going to be able to build the relationships or get the information you need to help another/do your job this way. There is no trust and without it, there’s little success.

To walk with someone who has been unhoused, potentially for decades, through the housing process is a privilege. I have learned so much more through the individuals I’ve worked with about the joys and horrors of this life, than I’ve learned through any one or thing else in my life. And as an employee or an organization in this field you need to understand this is a privilege and you’re not working with a number or a social ill – you are working with a person. A human being as worthy and needing of respect, love and dignity as yourself.

I work in a field that requires a masters degree, yet pays less than most starting salaries for those coming out of under grad. A field lacking the perks and benefits of, say, Google or Amazon or the gaming world. My work is grossly undervalued in society, yet without the amazing individuals who do this work, I do not even want to think about what society would look like. I spend my days with those making up the poorest segments of our society, in monetary terms. In the American Caste system these individuals are the Untouchables. Yet, my soul is enriched. And, no, I can not take that to the bank, but I can fall asleep at night with a clean and fulfilled conscience. When I turn on some terrible news program (regardless of station, the majority are terrible) or venture home, the bias and misconceptions – and hatred – toward those I know intimately and spend the majority of my time with enrages me. Everywhere I hear people speaking about my friends – people they will not even make eye contact with – as though they know them. Misinformation and pure myth (Ronald Reagan old definition literally made up the term “Welfare Queen” – completely fabricated story, yet how often do I hear middle to upper middle class individuals rant about the Welfare Queens “rampant” in the system – like anyone could actually get rich off welfare. Sigh) drive the one-sided conversations. 

And now I am venturing into the “rant” territory. Back to privilege. I am privileged to get to know, on an in-depth, personal level, the individuals I work with. I am privileged because I know that what is said about “them” is either completely inaccurate or overly simplistic. I am privileged because I get to hear the stories of some of the most traumatized members of our society and see the hope, strength and resiliency at the core of the human being. I am privileged because I get to live a life so enriched by the beauty of our souls – all of our souls. And I am privileged because there is nothing else I would rather be doing with my time here than that which I get to do on a near daily basis. I do not have a job, I am privileged to have a career.


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