I clicked on the “social work” category I have on my blog, and I realized this: I’ve barely written about my current job since it started. I’m a social work practicum student at an organization that provides paid art apprenticeships for low-income teenagers from the area. The teens have clients — businesses or organizations in the community — who they do work for… murals, bike racks, activity books and so on.
This is partially due to the fact that I got engaged right before starting, and I’ve been busy with planning a wedding and settling into life with my husband. But also, honestly, I’ve struggled a bit to enjoy it and regularly “see God” in it.
I’ve learned a lot about myself. I often feel awkward around the teenagers we work with. I feel awkward around teenagers, in general, but these teens have lives I still can’t fully grasp, despite having now extensively studied issues of poverty, racism, and under-resourced neighborhoods. There’s a difference between studying something and really knowing it.
The organization is tiny, so I often do mundane tasks like updating the website and creating mailings to funders. This, in itself, has shown me some pride in myself. I’m the graduate student. I’m worth more than this, right? (Answer: No, not necessarily.)
But, like everything hard and not-always-fun, it’s the little stuff that gets me by.
Like the teen who we’re helping get glasses after we realized he’s never been able to see the board. Or one of the sweet girls who loves architecture. I’ve got a magazine in my purse to give her that I hope will inspire her creativity. Or the whole group of them who traipsed several blocks to dissect pig hearts without complaining. Or the teenage boy in our program who sewed his own portfolio bag for his drawings of celebrities and family members. He brings it every day, even though the strap is ripping off.
Many of our teens ride the bus more than 45 minutes to come to work for four hours a day, twice a day. They work hard and give themselves fully despite not always being totally excited about the project — especially when it involves dissecting pig hearts. So I will, too.