I’m Falling Into A Routine And I Think I Like It

So here we go again. It is exactly one week since I blogged last. I definitely promised myself that I would try to blog twice this week. I don’t even think I was that busy… just lazy. Watching Gilmore Girls seemed more intriguing than writing I guess. Yep, you’re right, that’s something I need to work on.

There are a few things I noticed this week actually that I think are worth blogging about. Have you ever gotten into a routine? Even if it’s on accident. But just because it’s on accident doesn’t mean it has to be a bad thing.

As of now, I accidentally stumbled into this grocery shop, meal prep, blog and Netflix routine on Sundays. It’s not such a bad thing. But here is what I noticed about routines… sometimes we get so caught up in the routine that we don’t take the time to notice what’s actually going on in the world.

I was sitting I my favorite place, Starbucks, reading a book about human trafficking. The guy who took my order seemed to be in another world and the barista took a very long time to make my skinny vanilla iced latte. The girl in line behind me was wearing leggings and a long sleeved t-shirt with her hair tied back in a messy ponytail. She looked like she had just left the gym or something. Definitely a college student.

I sat down at one of the “comfy” chairs and pulled out my book. Two kids came in and sat at the two comfy chairs closest to the window to the parking lot. The younger one took his coat off and sat back in the seat while the other one stared out the window waiting for someone. Sooner than later a gentleman with long hair in a ponytail walked in and the kids ran to him. He went to the counter to order and while he was waiting he peeked behind the corner at me and the other chairs.

I think he saw the title of my book  (“Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking”) and sat far from adult-black-and-white-body-271418where the kids could see it. I put the book down in my lap just in case. Then, a middle-aged man came in very swiftly and went directly to the outlet next to me. He plugged in his phone and went to order. Ten minutes later he came back with a breakfast sandwich and a coffee and gobbled it up as quick as he could. He sat there scrolling through his phone for a moment and then hurried up and gathered his phone charger and left.

On my way out a gentleman held the door open for me. We awkwardly headed in the same direction in the parking lot. But what made it more awkward was that he stopped at a car with the driver door wide open and said “oh sorry, this is me.” I didn’t know if he had left it open on purpose or not, so I chuckled and said, “it happens,” and went straight to my car. Poor guy was probably embarrassed.

Do these people know though? Do they know of the injustice of trafficking taking place across the globe and even in our own backyard? Do they know Jesus?

I mean, this isn’t an “it happens” kind of thing. But I’m afraid to think that those who are caught up in their routines actually believe that. Or maybe they are in denial that this kind of thing happens here in their own backyard.

It’s so heartbreaking to see that people go about their daily lives and don’t know these things.

I guess I am feeling convicted in getting caught up in a routine because I don’t ever want to be unaware of injustices happening. I want to be aware so that I can pray and do my part as a social worker/follower of Christ in spreading the Good News that even though these injustices are happening, there is still a GOOD GOD that cares deeply for victims and you and me.

Maybe this means that instead of saying “it happens” I should mention something about an injustice happening. Like, “hey did you hear about the latest statistics on human trafficking in Ohio?” OR “do you know the facts about Refugees?”

These are things I am passionate about. These are things Jesus is passionate about.

I like the way the Psalmist puts it in Psalms 9.7, “But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice.” 

Jesus sits on the throne forever. He has establised it for justice. I also love the way the big man Himself puts it in Luke 4.18-19 when He is rejected at Nazareth.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Yes, yes, yes, and even more yes!!! Thank you Jesus for paving the way in being passionate about social injustices!

So with all of that being said, I think something I want to personally work on, and something I would challenge you to personally work on, is sharing the heart of Jesus about injustices with complete strangers.

Instead of just having a small talk conversation about buying goat cheese and mini muffins with the person behind you at the grocery store and then leaving in the abyss of people and going off into your own separate life, maybe talk about how some people don’t even have access to mini muffins, or even deeper, how some families cannot afford it and therefore they sell their children in various ways to make quick cash.

Jesus does not call us to be silent. Join me in this challenge, friend.

Servant Leadership

Similar to my last post, this post is going to be for a specific school assignment. Although it is for an assignment, I think it is a great discussion among not only the social work community, but also the Christian community. So, here we go!

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When I say the word “leadership” what do you think of? What are the traits and characteristics that immediately pop into your mind? I usually think of the president of student council, the church board members, the principle of a school, the captains of sports teams, etc. The list could go on and on and on. Personally, I feel like leadership is an opportunity to show people you care. It is an opportunity to utilize your own giftings and skills to serve. Yes, that’s right, I said the “s” word.

I know the word “serve” is not the first thing that comes to mind when we hear leadership. Some of us might get the picture of a huge army being led by one single person. How could that one single person “serve” an army? It sounds impossible doesn’t it? But think about the concept of servant leadership… what does that look like to you?

To me, it looks like a leader stepping off of the stage for a moment to help a follower. It means having compassion for the people under you and being passionate about your leadership role. I mean, c’mon, who wants to be a “follower” under someone who is not really passionate about what they are doing? I had an experience with this once.

It was my second year of college and I was the action officer of our missions club on campus. My specific role was to plan events to do missions work on our campus and in the city surrounding the campus. I was under a particular leader, whom I adored, don’t get me wrong, but she was not as passionate about the club as a few other leaders and myself. It was very difficult to work with someone like this. There were a lot of tensions. And honestly, the club is no longer in existence (there are more factors to that).

As a student studying a subject I am extremely passionate about, I often think about how I want to be a leader in my future career. In my undergraduate studies I always thought being a leader in social work meant being the absolute best, all the time. I was the student that got assignments done when everyone else asked for a deadline. I was the student that made sure I understood my theories and aced every test I took. I met all the page count and source count requirements. I even participated in social work club as much as I could. I thought of myself as a leader.

But now that I am in graduate classes and even working in the field of social work, I am learning that leadership is so much more than that. Leadership is an opportunity to facilitate empowerment and encouragement among colleagues to help them do their best (that was such a “social worky” statement wasn’t it?!). Yes, being a leader is a chance to “shine” and show what you can do, but it’s not to be done in a selfish fashion.

One thing that we do not always realize is that there are different types of leadership. Peters (2018) shares a few of these different types of leadership: organizational, relational, and individual. I’ll let you use your imagination on how each are different. Personally, in the field of social work (as a student and looking towards my future career) my role is to be a competent leader, with empathy and passion, that works to serve not only my future clients, but also my colleagues.

It is crucial that if you are going to be a leader, you need to be an effective leader. Otherwise, your efforts are just wasted. Being an effective leader may mean accepting constructive criticism from those around you, taking on projects/tasks that aren’t so thrilling, and recognizing when it is your time to step down. In this profession (and in the Christian community) we are working with other professions (other religions). We encounter them on a day-to-day basis (i.e. medical staff, counselors, psychiatrists, police officers, lawyers, etc.). The actions we take as leaders in our community make impressions on those we interact with.

Just as we are “judging” the other professions to make sure they are doing their jobs right, other professions are doing the same of us. We are always being watched and critically analyzed. That is just another reason why it is important to make our leadership sound and effective.

Personally, I believe that to be an effective leader, the leader must make sure they are taking care of themselves. Effective leaders, desiring to serve, cannot truly be effective if they have no energy, motivational, or will to serve. Simply put, you cannot pour from an empty cup. This is a field where compassion fatigue is easier to accomplish then self-care. Do you practice self-care? Wait, do you know what self-care is?

I would describe self-care as caring for yourself. Yes, it’s that simply. So much of our time as professionals and leaders in this chaotic life is dedicated to meeting the needs of others. We deal with messy, fragile situations that take a lot of energy out of us in order to be effective. So, how do we fix our decrease in energy? By doing something for ourselves. I like to go for a walk, play tennis, play my guitars, nap, read, eat, nap in a hammock, etc. I have a never-ending list… Now, it’s time for you to make your list of self-care practices. It’s important to have these tricks in a bag so when you need to pull them out they are right there. I may not always have time to take a nap, but I can sit in my car waiting to see my next client and read a chapter of my favorite book. Here is a self-care starter kit to help you build your list of tricks! Feel free to comment your results!

Almost coupled with self-care is the ability to assume positive intent and recognize where you are on the mood elevator. This is crucial to being a good leader for several reasons. First, have you ever received a text message from someone and immediately thought the sender was being rude? Me too. Almost everyday. Now, texting is not the best form of communication, however in this developing world, some clients may not even want to talk on the phone, thus scheduling with them is done via text. Email is similar to this. We cannot assume that the senders meaning behind the message was to be rude. This would be assuming negative intent. In other words, their intentions were not to come off like a stone-cold, hot-headed, ungrateful individual. This article explains a little more about positive intent.

Assuming positive intent is also important because as a leader we never want to come 6a00d8341d883653ef0162fbd046b7970d-600wiacross as being offended. We never want to open the door for us to respond negatively either. Thus, recognizing where we fall on the mood elevator during these times is important. Check out the picture to the side. Let’s say you are a supervisor and you open up an email on a Monday morning from your newly hired social worker. You specifically hired this worker because you loved their positive attitude and how they always used exclamation points in their emails. This one did not. It also asked if you could privately meet with them. How do you respond?

You could get anxious because you don’t know what they want to talk to you about. You may even assume it is bad because of how the email was written. OR you can be optimistic and respond by saying, “Sure! Let me know when you are available this week!”

In my Professional Development class, we read an article about the five components of emotional intelligence. They are: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill. Basically, having these five pieces put together will help you to be an effective leader in social work practice. Unfortunately, it is not always that easy. We will not be able to “master” all of these components. And that’s okay!

Personally, I feel like I will struggle the most with self-awareness. It is not that I am self-aware, it’s that sometimes I am overly self-aware. I mean, to the point of being afraid I might offend someone if I make one little mistake. However, I know that as I continue on in my education I will learn how to cope with this challenge and be the best I can be for myself, clients, and colleagues.

So now you are probably thinking, okay so why are you sharing this on your faith-based blog? Because while this is for a social-work specific class, the implications can be applied to any profession. They are also very important to examine in our own faith walks. I purposefully made an effort to not mention Christianity, Biblical context, or Jesus as much as I could throughout the article because I wanted to challenge you to make those connections. If you want to have a discussion about it, I encourage you to comment!

It is important for MSW students (and anyone else) to be introduced to what leadership is because this is the point in our education where we really dive into the field of social work. It is no more generalist practice like we had in UG. The stakes are raised, more expectations are expected, and we are all being challenged into our own little unique leader-selves that will eventually go out and serve out communities and the world. Learning this now instead of during our first job after graduation will most likely get us the best first job after graduation because we will stand out in already being effective leaders.

While I enjoyed this class I took very much, just like anything else, improvements can be made. Throughout this course I was able to do a lot of self-assessments that helped me become more self-aware (hey, there’s that word again!). I was challenged in unique ways and inspired to be a better, effective leader. This course also touched on a variety of topics. However, it would have been really interesting to go more in-depth with all levels of social work (micro, mezzo, and macro) as well as spend more time looking at how to be a leader when working with other cultures.

The last thing I would like to share is a specific leadership model. This model is called the social change model of social work. Iachini, Cross, and Freedman (2015) find several values in three different categories that help social workers promote change. Individual values consist of consciousness of self (being aware of beliefs and strengths), congruence (aligning forms of communication), and commitment. In a group setting values are collaboration (working together to complete a task), common purpose, and controversy with civility (handling conflict well). Lastly, the one social value discussed is citizenship.

The things discussed in this post are specific things to help us better ourselves as leaders. Everyone every now and then needs to do a self-check. This is a great time to do that if you are already in a leadership position. If you are not in a leadership position but would like to be, this is a great way to start!

 

Iachini, A. L., Cross, T. P., & Freedman, D. A. (2015). Leadership in Social Work Education and the Social Change Model of Leadership. Social Work Education34(6), 650-665. doi:10.1080/02615479.2015.1025738

Peters, S. C. (2018). Defining social work leadership: a theoretical and conceptual review and analysis. Journal Of Social Work Practice32(1), 31-44. doi:10.1080/02650533.2017.1300877