Last night I gave a speech at my synagogue. The theme had to focus on something I am passionate about with a link to Judaism. I spoke about my desire to help people and how even those less fortunate may also want to help others. Here is my speech.
I was never really passionate about anything while I was growing up. Most of my childhood and adolescence was spent reading novels and watching sappy dramas. This was a form of an escape from the trials and tribulations of school.
I guess growing up with a chronic illness can have its side effects. I was different to my peers. So when I wasn’t reading or watching tv I was busy trying to keep up with everyone.
When I finished my degree at Melbourne university I was lost. I had spent four years studying movies and creative writing and focusing on myself.
Somehow I worked out that I didn’t want to spend my time analyzing movies or writing short stories. I realized that I wanted to work with people. I realized that I wanted to help people.
The torah repeatedly expresses the obligation to help those who cannot help themselves.
Supposedly there are eight degrees of charity. The highest degree, the eighth, is helping the needy to become self-sufficient. Some people will become self-sufficient over time with help, and some will always need to receive assistance, but all people have dignity and deserve to be treated with respect.
Being a social worker my job is to help people who may be less fortunate than me. I help people apply for government and non-government funding, access services such as counseling or training in advocacy or speaking up. I also try and help people get out into the community. I help people deal with their personal issues. I also help people achieve their goals and dreams whatever they may be.
One of my other roles at my place of work, Yooralla, is running a peer support program for our clients.
One of my volunteers has cerebral palsy, is in a wheelchair, has a catheter and has communication issues. He works part time for births, deaths and marriages and is completing his masters in criminology. He also lives independently. He felt like he wasn’t doing enough and he wanted to help people who were somewhat worse off than him.
I paired this man with a young woman with cerebral palsy. She too is in a wheelchair and has communication issues. She can mutter a word or two but her way of communication is through an iPad. Her volunteer attended case management meetings to represent her and advocate on her behalf.
Another one of my volunteers came to talk to me about his participant and he couldn’t believe how tough it was for him.
I looked at my volunteer. He had a visual impairment along with a physical disability and had just gone through a terrible court case. Yet he was still able to remain positive and believe he was lucky.
We ended our session with him easing himself out of his chair and stumbling towards his scooter. As he zoomed down the corridor, he beeped his horn and yelled out “be happy”.
That message has stuck with me for the last four years and yes, my job is to help people but the most gratifying thing is to leave each person a little bit happier.