LET US BE A LIGHT TO THE WORLD!
As I write this column, my family, along with Jewish families worldwide, is celebrating Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. This holiday celebrates the victory of a small band of faithful but poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, who were able to defeat the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who were trying to prevent the Jews from practicing their religion. After their unexpected victory, the Jews wanted to reclaim the Holy Temple in Jerusalem but only had enough oil to last one day when it would take eight days to get more of this holy oil. Miraculously the oil lasted eight days.
Jewish families who celebrate Hanukkah, light candles in their Menorah for eight days, sing Hanukkah songs, spin a dreidel with their children and eat potato pancakes with apple sauce and sour cream, among other activities.
Jewish families often put their lighted Menorah in the window of their residence so others can see it.
The lighting of the Hanukkah candles has symbolism that certainly applies to our role as social workers. Some of its messages are:
1) Stand up for what you believe in
2) A little light goes a long way-your individual efforts can make a huge difference in the world
3) Go public with your messaging
As social workers, we serve as “lights” to our clients, agencies, our community and world. We are taught to be advocates and stand up for ethical practice and social justice. We are the conscience of our agency and our community, often without support from our superiors and many in our community. We lead efforts for social justice.
We shine our light by serving as role models for our clients and are there for them in their darkest moments. Whether we are helping troubled adolescents, protecting vulnerable children, helping challenged families, serving victims of domestic violence or sexual assault or helping clients in a hospital or nursing home, we offer hope and light to our clients.
As social justice advocates, we often struggle against seemingly impossible odds to fight against oppressive policies and promote humane policies.
We are leaders in our communities, state and nation against policies that harm diverse communities, our clients and the general welfare of our society.
After another day of setbacks for social justice in our country, one of our NASW-WI interns asked me, “How do you keep hopeful?”
My answer was three-fold:
One, we speak out and advocate because it is the right thing to do and we know we must do so regardless of whether we think we can be successful at the moment.
Two, we know if we don’t speak out, it only means it will take even longer for needed change to come.
Finally, as social workers we are always hopeful for our clients and our social justice work and believe change is always possible. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “The arc of history is long but it bends toward justice”.
So, I want to take this time to thank all of you for being a light to your clients, community and world despite so many obstacles and challenges. You all give hope to me, our social work community, our clients and our world.
By Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW