I work in the social service field, providing support to adults with developmental disabilities and communication challenges. Among my colleagues there is one compliment we get that we all dread,
“ You are a very special person to be doing this work”.
What makes us so very uncomfortable about this statement is that there is a false belief among those working in the field that we are supposed to be modest, we aren’t special and anyone can do what we do. I find that a person who’s worked in the field for a decade or longer will often have a different response to this statement, they are more accepting of the compliment but it still makes them uncomfortable. We genuinely like the people we support and feel we are providing a necessary service, why does that make us more special that, say, the guys that plow the ridiculous amounts of snow that can accumulate on our roads and driveways? Those guys will work for up to 24 hours straight! I know this as my father and brother did it!
The fact is, that aside from those who really have no business doing social work, we are special and unique! Though not for the reasons most people may think. The reality is that the work is hard, it’s often gross and can be dangerous. We are bogged down with administrative work that lays way beyond some our skill level, certainly most of us hate it, and the expectations can be overwhelming. Most of us work for Government funded non profit agencies who are vastly underfunded, so unless you are lucky enough to be with an agency who’s figured out how to pay their employees properly, the pay can seriously suck. However, the work is far from selfless, and this is where the “special and unique” comes in. Most of the workers who support people with Developmental disabilities have a passion for the work, we genuinely love what we do. It is a rare and beautiful thing to find a career that drives and inspires. This drive and inspiration makes us work harder and have pride in what we do.
When we are told we are “special and unique,” looking at it from another point of view, it is something to be proud of. We figured out how to love our work and that is amazing! We understand that we would become depressed sitting at a desk pushing papers every day despite the fact that we’d be taking home a bigger pay cheque. We know that there are aspects of our work that we can’t believe we are being paid for, while knowing that other tasks we cant believe we do for such little compensation. We also can be fairly certain that most days we will be entertained and laugh.
Valuing our work is about the attitude we have toward what we do and understanding that while the pay cheque is necessary sometimes our compensation for work well done includes appreciation from those we support and those who do not have the skill set and mind set to do it. It takes all types to make the world go round. So figure out what your passions are and how to use your talents and skills in a way that excites and inspires you, and you too can be a part or the “special and unique” club!
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