Post my 2011 return to the Old Lady Next Door last week, I re-read through all of my past posts. In doing so I found that a consistent sad theme throughout was obvious: death, lost love, depression, loneliness, absent families, sickness, nursing homes, etc. I thought on this awhile and resolved to include more positive and uplifting posts in the future. But that’s easier said than done. Because let’s face it, people with good retirement plans, financial security, safe homes, good health, and present and supportive families… don’t need social workers. That’s not the reason my profession exists. The need for a social worker comes with the absence of one or more of the above listed provisions. So for the sake of honesty and transparency, the Old Lady Next Door will continue to reflect a sense of sadness, as is needed. Not to be received as a buzz kill, but I hope, rather, a sobering truth.
On that note, one of my old high school friends recently posted a link on my Facebook wall and commented “this seems like it might be right up your alley.” It was a link to The Julie Project by Darcy Padilla (http://www.darcypadilla.com/thejulieproject/intro.html). Padilla is a photographer who followed a woman named Julie, a homeless mother with HIV, for nearly 2 decades. Talk about a sobering truth, this photo project speaks to, nay proclaims issues that often go well hidden in our society… issues that the mainstream middle class may have nothing to do with, least of all understand. Julie was born to a teen mother and was sexually abused during childhood by her step-father. The Julie Project explores her ensuing life of homeless shelters, drug addiction, disease and the loss of 5 of her total 6 children to child protective services. The emotion of this woman’s short lived life is palpable.
I told my high school friend that I appreciated his post but that The Julie Project was hardcore social work... not the kind I’ve ever actually worked in. I did, however, study this kind of thing during my degrees via text books and case studies. The Julie Project illustrates gaps in our society and in social justice. It also magnifies the polarity of wealth and disparity in our society. Regardless of where anyone stands politically or socioeconomically, lives like Julie’s exist, they are tangible and worst of all they are changeable. Remember in my last post (All You Need is Love) I stated “it makes me wonder if I will ever suffer that way too” in regards to the suffering I see in my work. I guess that is one of my attractions to social work, the fact that I cannot answer the question “why not me?” Why is it someone else that is subjected to such a degraded existences and not me? I guess one of the harder parts of social work is having a foundation and understanding into things like the vicious cycle of poverty and other marginalized aspects of society that perpetuate suffering. Some parts are unexplainable and perhaps nothing can be done to change them… but not all.
One more time for good measure: http://www.darcypadilla.com/thejulieproject/intro.html