Thankful: the list

This year I am:

Thankful that I have my health and access to health care that I trust and am comfortable accessing.

Thankful I have a job that pays me a salary and pays for my health insurance

Thankful that though my heart is heavy with much grief and anger about many things in this world it is also nourished by the love of many through friendship and kinship

Thankful for my family

Thankful that some things don’t change as quickly as others

Thankful for the many people I know who are at present taking a stand against the assault on Gaza

Thankful for my cushy, comfy and oh so warm hoodie with the big buttons

Thankful that my imagination is as vibrant and ridiculously over-active as ever

Thankful for living in a place with four seasons

Thankful for all the hope I have inside me despite it all

Thankful for scheming and schemers

Thankful that I have little to fear

Thankful that I dream in color

Thankful that my future is mostly determined by me

Thankful for gchat that keeps me in touch with far flung friends and wastes hours of valuable work time

Thankful for books of all shapes, sizes and genres

Thankful for a full pantry and ‘fridge

Thankful for pals to watch TV shows and eat popcorn with

Thankful for writing and being able to play with the written word

Thankful for cats, kitties and cat memes on the internet

Thankful for candy

Thankful for spell check

Thankful for editors

Thankful for my education

Thankful for my home (leaky windows and all)

Thankful for my housemates

Thankful for toad and fancy

Thankful for how the community I work in service of has embraced me and trust me

Thankful for going to bars and drinking on election night with friends

Thankful for soccer matches

Thankful for my smarts

Thankful for the bright red cardinal that lives outside my window

Thankful for the images of home that keep with me always

Thankful that the Columbia River exists such as it is

Thankful that the Rocky Mountains, while not still growing, are in no danger of disappearing in my lifetime

Thankful for my mom and all her grace and power the she gave to me

Thankful my aunt took me to the YMCA for swimming when my mom was working

Thankful for sunny and cloudy days equally

Thankful for chit-chat

Thankful for naps

Thankful for people more talented than I who create art and dance

Thankful that bombs do not rain down on me or any of my loved ones

Thankful for all my feelings and emotions

Thankful for time to get things done

Thankful for the relative ease of my commute to work

Thankful for the chance to think thoughtfully about the many blessings in my life

Advertisements

Toward Caring Social Change without Partitions.

his is perhaps a little late, missing the moment of dialog around self-care that emerged on the internet following an article by B. Loew. I’m a bit slower on the uptake when it comes to these things. I work in print, which means I often take a little longer writing something because I assume I have a longer production timeline. I also took my time with gathering feedback from close friends and fellow organizers (or rather they took there time in giving feedback…hehe). I wanted to be sure to get feedback from people who would be implicated in this piece before I sent to its fate in the interwebs.  So better late than never I suppose.

Toward Caring Social Change without Partitions.

Growing up my mother worked nights. Her weekend was Sunday and Monday. Knowing Sunday was a full day off, my mom would sleep late, usually until noon. As a result my brother and I would also sleep late on Sunday’s. Maybe not as late as noon but at least until ten, which for a little kid is pretty late. Once she was up my mom would always cook a breakfast of eggs and bacon for all of us. Then she’d drift away to read the Sunday paper for hours while my brother and I destroyed the house with our play. As I’ve grown up and become an adult in my own right I’ve kept up the family tradition of not starting a Sunday until late. I sleep in. I lay in bed for an hour listening to Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me on NPR and then have a bigger than usual breakfast, read the paper and go from there. My brother acts in pretty much the same way, except I think he still watches cartoons and eats bacon in the morning. My mom’s life has changed; she now works a different job that doesn’t include nights. But it remains for her too that on Sunday’s you sleep in and take it easy. For our family this is a tradition of self-care.

Something that has struck me through all the articles about self-care that have percolated on the internet is that I don’t yet see a definition being debated. It is more about how self-care is made a part of our lives in relation to our movement work.  B came at from a movement work perspective but was clearly focusing a critique on a specific area of movement work. Adrienne Maree Brown added a community friendship/kinship perspective and the very important idea of self-determination in what kind of care you need and ask for; Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha wrote of self-care through social and class identities and also added some much needed analysis around privilege and self-care. For everyone, this discussion of self-care has come to bring up personal emotions related to the self and our sense of place in our communities and our political work. For me it almost immediately brought up my mom and her Sunday morning routine and how it has influenced me in how I live my life.

In B’s original post I noted that it was directed primarily at folks engaged in movement work. In this context I appreciated a lot of what B wrote. I have seen people burnout and then use the term self-care to generally become a flake. People who have spun their wheels to death and have felt too little reward for their work start to pull away. Some continue to make commitments they just flak out on, cause conflict with their indecisiveness, or try and shut down whole projects with their foul mood. Still others just drift away and are not really heard from again leaving things unfinished and a bit of bitterness in those left holding the bag. I’ve been frustrated by this issue that I see not coming from pure selfishness but from not building movements that like Adrienne and  others write, counter the messages of the dominate culture that our lives, health and wellbeing don’t really matter.

But B, who were you writing about? You do seem to be directing your comments towards something specific, yet unnamed. Through the lines of you article I read a reflection that brings to mind an idea of privileged entitlement to self-care that I see as linked to white models of community and organizing. I see many of your points through the snark, but would have liked you to be more explicit about whom you indictment of self-care is directed toward. Your critique holds many valid points, but implicates so many (parents, the disabled, the chronically ill, the old, the young…everyone) in a critique that was directed at something more specific that’s got you ticked off. This is why Leah’s response is so needed.

When B makes his remark about not knitting our way to revolution he is, I think, not referring to the same sort of thing as what Leah means in bringing up a quilting bee. I was glad Leah brought up quilting bees. As community and cultural traditions, quilting bees have offered great gathering points for social organizing. But again, B is bringing up a specific critique of self-care within a specific context but without specificity we’re all dragged (knitters, quilters and the like) into the critique.

Leah compels us to remember that there are many community traditions that are rich in both social justice/community/movement work and self-caring traditions. Our work must be a place that supports us and where our ways of caring for ourselves and others are supported and sufficient, not separate.

But whose culture or community doesn’t support this and what gives? Not everyone experiences the work for social justice the same way as to be chewed up and spit out by the endless churning of work. Nor does everyone experience movement work as separate from the rest of their lives. But B’s piece and much of the subsequent discussion has left me feeling like the conversation is being partitioned into how we take care of ourselves in movement work is different then how we take care of ourselves in the rest of our lives.

A few months Back By Jonathan Matthew Smucker wrote an excellent piece on Alternet about the dangers and limitations of the activist identity. He writes about how the stratification of activist doing activist work and everyone else lets people off the hook and sets up an us/them dichotomy that actually works against the interests of deep social change. I think of that article now as I think of my traditions of self-care and commitment to being engaged in social justice. To be engaged in movement work is as much a tradition in my family as sleeping late on Sunday’s. You don’t get one without the other. What is more, for some the act of engaging in social action work is the start of self-care.

I think of the community I work in; HIV+, poor and heavily challenged. I think of what self-care means to chronically ill, drug users, to those in recovery to those living on the streets, to multigenerational care takers living with not only HIV but also diabetes and heart disease. I think of the complex trauma histories of many in this community and wonder what they would think of this conversation. Instead of an end to self-care they may call for a start of self-care. Not because community and family don’t matter, but because those things or the dugs or the streets have always come first. But on AIDS Lobby day they show up. At 4am at South Station they are getting on a bus to DC for a protest. They, very often, see those acts as putting themselves first. Collectively joining forces through shared bonds is both a function of community and an act of healing.  Is this not also true for many of us?

On community care –

Of course I want my community to be there for me, to support me in taking care of myself and to take care of me when I can’t and to let me be a part of taking care of others. But I am still the one most responsible for taking care of me.

A dear friend of mine, Brenda who recently passed away after over a year battling health scare after health scare, was often heard saying “we have to teach people how we want to be treated”. I can’t just expect people to know how to take care of me when I’m depressed or consumed with grief. I have to teach them by asking for what I need and sharing what’s on my mind. In having supportive community I am able to take care of myself.

As a person who struggles with depression and ongoing complex grief surrounding the death of my dad I’ve needed my whole community at different times and in different ways to keep me going. I’ve had to learn to ask for help, advocate for myself and let people know what I’m capable of contributing at any given moment. What Adrienne wrote in her piece about self-determined care struck me hard. It has been just over four years since my dad passed away. Since about a year after his death I have been receiving messages that I need to be beyond my grief by now. In many aspects of my life I feel a pressure to have moved on through the grieving process – that my hurt, anger and sadness shouldn’t be so acute. I felt a great sense of relief in reading Adrienne’s article. It reminded me to stay strong in my conviction that the community that in working for social change and community justice needs to also have a place for my grief. It breaks my heart to think that this part of me would not be supported or a part of movement work I am engaged in. Perhaps this is partly why my movement work looks so different today from four years ago.

In the past year as Brenda’s health deteriorated her community rallied in a way that I think exemplifies the give and take of supportive community care that is connected to community justice work. Over the year friends helped Brenda by taking her to medical appointments, staying at the hospital and driving her to events. Through it all Brenda stayed involved with her organizing work in the HIV+ community. Recognizing that this sort of involvement was a part of her health and self-care, her friends helped her to do this. For Brenda, who had become so dependant on others to still have a role where others were depending on her to get work done was a source of strength. For Brenda, caring for her community was a way to also care for herself. As both B and Adrienne said – movement work can be healing work.

Communities are amazing sources of care. When my mother had cancer her friends responded to her need to be taken care of by stepping in and coordinating support. I’ve been to many “rent parties”, organized by a group of friends to help another friend raise money for the next months rent when times were hard. This is the stuff we and many other pockets of community just do for each other. These are the same people I’m in struggle with for social justice. A lot of the carrying on with the carrying on of life is just part and parcel with working for social justice.

I won’t pretend that it’s as easy as just saying “be gone your silly boundaries!” Social movement organizing has gotten a little more complicated then all that as B points out. Given the rise of the 501 c3 empires what is social movement work is so differently defined by different groups of people its almost useless to talk about. In fact I keep using the word ‘movement’, but I’ll admit it….I don’t know what that means. I haven’t felt a part of a movement since 2003 when we I was in the throws of the last hurrahs of the anti-globalization movement. Since then I have simply been in it to win it with my friends and community members working to hold each other safe from a world out to get us.

Self-care and community care are to me the stuff of life; Rooted in identities and forged in tradition new and old. They are the things we hold individually and collectively that bring us closer together, give us joy and rest and tie us to our past and prepare us for the future.

On the Many Ways People Leave our Lives

On co-facilitators

Today I arrived at work to hear the deeply saddening news that my dear colleague an, friend had passed away. This was so unexpected that it took nearly two hours for me to understand. For all of us it was a shock and the job of picking up and carrying on with the carrying on was an ordeal. Especially given our line of work. As the staff at a community resource drop-in center for people with HIV/AIDS loss is not new to us or the people who come in form meals, classes and other services. So not only do we have to carry on for ourselves but we must carry on for those we are here to support. So we carried on with our day and were there as much as we could be for our community members. Near the end of the day I was quietly collating and sorting papers into folders and supplies into bags for the first day of our 13 week mind-body course. The last time I did this task I did it with my co-worker who was also my co-facilitator in the program. An already tedious task became entirely not fun. I sat and recalled how my friend and co-facilitator would make up games to pass the time and crack jokes to make the task go more quickly. He was a joy to work with and as the news settles the more I realize that he was a joy to co-facilitate with as well. And now I am sitting with the loss of a friend and a co-facilitator and I’m finding that I never quite appreciated the weight and importance of a co-facilitator relationship. We didn’t just co-facilitate every now and again. We were a pair. He was my co-facilitator and I was his. That defined us and as I sit here now I can look back and see how what a special bond can be created between two people who are working as co-facilitators in an ongoing way. We grew into the program and curriculum together, teaching each other and helping each other to learn. He made me feel so skilled and competent through his feedback and support and also through the way we grew to complement each other in our different approaches. We became a near perfect balance and our flow was uninterrupted and natural.

Tomorrow class starts and I’m with another co-worker, who is also dear to me, but who is not my co-facilitator. It is interesting…the many ways people leave our lives.

Aerophobia and the geography of irrational fear

I’ll be just fine once you shut up about car crash statistics!

I have an immense fear of flying. This is known. I think that many of us say things like “oh, I’m so scared of roller coasters” or “I’m terrified of spiders, I just hate them”. With varying degrees of hyperbole we all say to one another the things we are afraid of. But I am not just merely afraid to fly. I am paralyzed by the thought of flying. The site of planes flying in the sky makes my stomach jump. I fear for friends and family when they fly. Movies or TV shows where people are on planes cause me anxiety, even when nothing bad happens. I can’t search for a plane ticket online without getting sweaty and dizzy. That whole plan crashing into the Hudson story everyone was so excited about? That made me burst into tears of dread as I read the paper. When I have had to fly I’ve either cried the whole time or taken so many sedatives as to pass the fuck out. So no, I am not merely afraid of flying or a nervous flyer. I have a bona fide phobia.

Friends and family know this about me. Or at least they no me to be anxious about flying. It’s hard to say if anyone truly understands. My favorite is when people hear of my fear of flying and they say “Oh I hate flying too! This one time….” They then drone on about some harrowing flight experience. While I may look calm on the outside my inner mind is slowly chanting the mantra of “don’t throw up. Don’t throw up” or telling me not to kick the person in the face.

Another good one is the quoting of the statistic about how you are far more likely to die in a car crash then in a plane crash. Let us now and forever put to rest the myth that this little gem of a fact in any way helps a nervous or fearful flyer to calm down. It does not. Because to me and many others who dread flying it is not about statistics and truth be told if a plane is going down you’re probably going to die regardless of car death fatality statistics.

There are still others that just say, “oh you’ll be fine” or tell me to learn all I can about planes. I’ll be fine? What does that even mean? Can we all agree that this too is a bit of worthless advice to the truly fear stricken? For should the event pass without incident the mere trauma of the fear inducing event itself means that no, we will not be fine. As for learning about planes, well I can’t even go near one without wanting to vomit and I think the whole idea of propelling a group of people through air and time in an aluminum tube filled with jet fuel is ludicrous!

No, fear like mine is not rational. And as with most irrational things you cannot combat it with straight up, in your face rational. Fear like mine is the manifestation of a combination of seemingly benign things that have taken advantage of my already hyper-anxious nature. Left unchecked these things have rooted themselves in me as a phobia. Ok, that was maybe a bit of rational applied to the irrational. But I’m a licensed social worker so I know a bit more about this than you.

I have not been home in over two years. This year my mother has made it perfectly clear that I am to come home for Christmas. I lack sufficient time and funds to take the train or drive so I am left with flying. That or taking a boat down around to the Panama Canal and then up to Seattle and then a bus or something to Spokane. But really, who has the time for that?

It appears that I will be flying home for the holidays.

Fortified by soda and pie I have plunged into the battering task of researching plane tickets. Over a week I’ve managed to slowly increase the amount of time I can spend on the internet looking. I usually have to have a Harry Potter book on tape playing in the back ground to sooth me with Stephen Fry’s familiar telling of these much loved books.

As I have searched I have found out a few things. For starters, what the fuck has happened to airline prices since I did this last? Last time I flew home I could get a round trip ticket to Spokane at the holidays for $340. Now all I can find are tickets for upwards of $700. At first I thought that if tickets were going to be that much my mother would drop the whole idea. But I lack that sort of luck.

I also found out that if I fly to multiple places on one ticket it’s just about the same price. My step-mother and brothers all live in and around Nevada City, CA (nearest airport: Sacramento).  Thusly I began to search for tickets from Boston to Spokane to Sacramento and back to Boston.

As I stare at the sample itineraries I observe several irrationalities in my mind:

  1. Flying east to west scares me more than flying west to east.
  2. I am terrified of the middle of the country as a geographic mass and think flying over it is the stupidest idea ever. So much space and air can’t mean good things for planes.
  3. Flying between Sacramento and Spokane (with a layover in Portland, OR) doesn’t seem to scare me the way flying to and from Boston and Spokane or Sacramento does and not because those flights are sans middle of the country. It is almost as if in my head, once I get out west I’ll be fine. It’s the getting there that I have to be afraid of.

All of this reminds of something I’ve meant to think about for some time but haven’t bothered to prioritize. That is, over the years my fear of flying has gotten progressively worse and follows an eerily familiar trajectory to my fathers worsening health and eventual death.

I’ve flown a lot in my life and to many countries far, far away. I couldn’t probably tell you about most of those flights. Oh, there is the one to Brazil where I got bumped to first class while my friend and travel companion was stuck in coach. And there was the flight to Disney land for my 12th birthday surprise where my mom got the flight attendants to sing me happy birthday on the intercom. But the vast majority of flights are just one big blur. In addition to the previously noted exceptions there is another flight which stands out. The flight I took home when my dad died.

That was the most terrifying flight ever. My memory of it is that it was the bumpiest flight with such violent turbulence as to warrant an emergency landing. That lack of which made me convinced the pilots were daredevil fools taking unnecessary risks. The flight left WashingtonNationalAirport, stopped in Phoenix and continued onto Sacramento. I tried to watch a movie, listen to a book on tape and read the airline magazine. All made me feel sick to my stomach. There was this woman in the row across from me who was as relaxed as could be. She had kicked off her boat shoes and was lounging back across all three seats in her cropped kakis and blue and white striped long-sleeved boat neck shirt. I wanted to scream at her “don’t you know we are dying? Sit up!” I resented her carefully disheveled, relaxed J. Crew look in such an obviously dangerous situation.

If I may interject some rational thought here I would say that I was perhaps channeling the fear and trauma of my situation onto the flight and those aboard the plane. This fear it would seem has persisted and taken hold inside of me. This would, to an extent explain why flights out west do not create for me the same level of anxiety and why flying east to west is more fear inducing then flying west to east.

Alright then, I’ve worked that much out. But now what? The fear remains. I’ll have to manage to purchase a ticket and then endure the growing anxiety as the travel day grows closer and then I’ll actually have to get on the plane, something never guaranteed. I have been known to just not show up for flights. Drugs for the actual flights are a given, but I can’t be drugged between now and December 21st. Or can I? No, I can’t.

I suppose I could go out and learn as much as I can about planes and flying. After which I could make myself a note that says “you are more likely to die in a car crash then in a plane crash” and tape it to my bathroom mirror to read each day.

My May Day 2012

My dad up at the house in Annisquam some years ago.

Early the other morning as I was monotonously chugging away at my morning work out on an elliptical machine at the gym I took note of how inflamed and painful my body felt. I slowed my pace and made a decision. I would spend this May Day on the sea shore, which is exactly what I did on this dark and stormy May Day.

Lately I have taken to popping a couple of Tylenol PM’s before bed to dull the pain in my neck and shoulders; pain that is exacerbated by nights of fitful, restless sleep, which in turn are brought on by vivid and upsetting dreams. Nearly always it is the same dream, one that I have had for nearly four years. In it I am always running, always crying and always frantic. I’m in a place that looks somewhat like mix between the Spokane city central bus station and this odd part of downtown Spokane that doesn’t exist anymore since they built a mall. I am running to meet my dad, late and incredibly frustrated. I am meeting him in an ice cream shop of sorts to apologize for burying him alive. In my dream he never speaks, he sits quietly not looking at me directly as I try to choke out between sobs that I am so sorry for what happened to him, for not believing he was still alive. There are other jumbled scenes that come and go on any given night. A scene with a doctor explaining the he will die soon anyway. In another scene set in my dad’s house where I am completely upset about trying to get my dad to sit down and rest. In this scene I can see his heart through his chest, as if it’s open to the world. I am desperate to get him close so I can cover it up. There is another scene in a park near the house I grew up in where my brother is with me and says he has seen our dad. We frantically look for him but no matter what, whenever we spot him we can’t run fast enough to reach him.

Throughout every incarnation of this dream my dad never looks at me or speaks. At times in my fear and hysteria I scream at him to talk to me. To hear that I am sorry and that we should talk about it. But he is always looking, calmly at some spot on the floor or a wall, always sipping a small cup of coffee. This image is familiar; a pose I frequently saw my father take while living – at a table in a coffee shop, on the couch or at the dinning room table. The dream is terrifying in its ability to make me feel both frustrated and hopeful. In the dream my dad is alive, though unreachable. When I wake he is neither alive nor reachable.

This dream exhausts me. I sit with it throughout my days and think about it before bed. I never know if I’ll dream it or some new version on any given night.

After leaving the gym and getting to work I was chatting over the computer with a good friend. I said I needed him to tell me it was ok to bow out of political observances of May Day in favor of heading north to Annisquam and to my Aunts house on the shore. My thinking was that sea air, a warm fire; some napping, quiet and thoughtful reflection would help to clear my head. I wanted some space devoid of the everyday to think about my father. The month of May marks not just his birthday but the anniversary of his passing.

My friend, being a good friend, said of course it was alright for me to do what I needed to do. He then imparted upon me some useful wisdom. As a Unitarian minister he knows a lot about many different faiths. He told me that in Jewish traditions there are times set for grieving, and that grieving for parents is the longest. Generally speaking we’re not taught to grieve parents. Instead we are supposed to believe it is okay for them to pass on, that it is inevitable. But in the Jewish traditions, it is understood that with parents there is complex and important grieving to do. So I should take all the time and ways I need to grieve for my dad.

This got me thinking about how little I talk about my grief to myself or anyone else. Parents do grow old, sometimes they do get sick and then they pass away. In between there is a sort of passing of the torch as the kids become grown up and take on the role of care giver to the parent. This is all natural and normal. Even in sudden instances. Parents just die before kids, this is a normal progression of the life span…except, it is completely not normal to have a parent suddenly be gone from your life.

I have written before about my regrets surrounding my dads passing. How I regret not having come home sooner to be there with my family in his last few months. I think these feelings are tied up in my dream and the dream is a part of these feelings struggling to come out and be heard and acknowledged. I am all for processing emotions. I may not be the best at it for myself, but I full in support of processing. But this dream has got to stop. I am putting time limits on it and what ever processing I have to do to move beyond it, well I’m game. I need a new dream, where I hear my dad’s voice and whatever barrier keeps us from seeing each other is gone. I imagine it’s a process that means I need to be more honest with myself and everyone else that four years into this I am very much still grieving for my dad.

The Botville Shopper

After a couple of grand years the Daily Boston Adventure has met its end. It was a great way to document my first years in Beantown, but life has evolved and so has my esthetic. Therefore I would like to introduce the Botville Shopper. You’re one stop spot for all things bot.

The content from this blog has been moved to the Shopper and will be archived. New content will have the familiar charm of this blog but perhaps a bit more depth, variety and consistent use of spell-check.

Onward!

MBP

 

 

Graduation Nation: The Speech

For all of you lovey folks who couldn’t be at graduation  to hear me deliver the graduation speech  – Here it is, in all its nerdy glory.

=====

To be chosen to speak from among my peers is a wonderful honor. The other nominees for student speaker, Sarah and CarmenLeah are two gifted social workers whom I have enjoyed knowing and hope to work with in the field for years to come.

I feel grateful to the BU School of Social Work for the education and training I received. I benefited from being able to take classes from such skilled and knowledgeable professors. It is a gift that at BUSSW professors are available to teach our foundation courses on the very topics that are their life’s work. That is a rare gift among the larger schools and universities and something that I will forever be grateful for and will always recommend the program.

In a way I made a blind leap into Social Work. I took it on faith that all I had been told about my suitability for social work to be true. It had been six years since I had attended a class or completed a homework assignment.

In the first year of the program I was so nervous. I felt I had no idea what to expect out of the program or myself.

Most memorable to me in that first year, more memorable even than the task force presentation, was the final research paper in HB 720. Being as it was really the first research paper I’d been asked to write.

I was struggling to find a way to apply theory to a paper on HIV/AIDS and aging and so met with my instructor, Professor Miller. I was sitting in his office with what must have been a dazed look on my face when he very kindly and patiently said, “I find ecological systems theory to be very versatile”.

I smiled politely but in my head I was saying “oh that big Bronfenbrenner article with all its systems that reminded me of an 8th grade lesson on paleontology – with all its systems and layers? Ya, wow, ok.”

But never one to shun well meaning advice I went to the library, pulled out Bronfenbrenner and got to work.

To this day I have that very worn and marked up copy of Bronfrenbrenners article on ecological systems theory in a folder. I have used his work as a basis of nearly all my course work.

It has been said that Social Work lacks its own body of knowledge and instead relies on the knowledge of other social science fields. I used to say the same thing. But now I don’t think that’s true. What I think is that we do have a unique body of knowledge – it perhaps doesn’t get enough recognition.

If you look at ecological systems theory in its simplest, barest form I think you get a glimpse of what the heart of social works body of knowledge is- the interconnectedness between a person and community and society.

Every person is influenced by the places they come from and the communities in which they live – we are all a sum of the pieces of what we take from our families, friends, and the expectations and conditions placed upon us by the society in which we live.

Social workers, more then a lot of professions understand the profundity of this simple equation.

These gory, slash and burn economic times we live in are truly devastating to the poor and indeed to middle class as well.

State and federal budgets will not only be balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable but on us, our work and the services we help to provide.

If the people crafting budgets get their way, the landscape of public welfare will forever be changed. Our jobs will increasingly look like desperate attempts to keep people from falling off the edge.

So this is it – this is our time to shine! As newly minted social workers we need embrace our full and vibrant body of knowledge and start organizing ourselves, our communities, our clients and co-workers for social change and compel our profession as a whole to do the same.

There is a great need for the work we do to spill over into the community – recognizing the interconnectedness of social environments and opening up spaces for the people we work with to be engaged in advocacy and community organizing – to make sure that no budget is balanced at the expense of the poor and marginalized.

This work isn’t just for the macro students – look at us, we’re like this little cadre of nerds over there talking excitedly about theories of organizational culture and sense making. Ok, not really, but you get my drift. You, the clinical students among us are the majority of graduates. But this body of knowledge is shared among us all and the work to make things right falls to all of us.

The work we will do as social workers will never happen outside the context of the social and political climate we live in. Neither too are the lives of the people we work with and their communities unaffected by the social and political times. We exist together in a multitude of social environments that are interacting and shaping one another. Some things are within our power to shape and change. To those things we must focus – no matter how out of reach they may seem.

This sense of obligation to effect lasting social change on many levels is what I take from my time at the BU School of Social work. I hope you to join you all in this work as we move into the field. Congratulations to the Class of 2011.