A few years ago, I had the opportunity to take a trip to Ghana. On that trip I witnessed what poverty really was. When I got back to the States, we were in the midst of the Christmas season. One pre-Christmas day, I took my very young niece and nephew to the mall to do their Christmas shopping. While walking, my niece spotted the “golden arches” and declared, “Auntie, I am starving”. My tone immediately shifted from that of a protective aunt to that of a perturbed aunt. “You are not starving! I have seen starving children, and you are not one of them. You may be hungry, but you are not starving!”
After I thought about it, I realized that my niece was not to be blamed for her innocent, yet errant statement. She was only a microcosm of a larger society which seemed to have abundance and waste at its core. In her world, need was understood within the context of immediate gratification for temporary desires. In her world, people who HAD thought that they needed more, and people who didn’t have acted like they did. In her world, fast food was accepted as a nutritious, life-giving meal. She had been living in a world where the superficial was a cover up for reality. He said, “I am thirsty”?
Some of us Christian social workers should take a page from Jesus’ story. Instead of giving the superficial answers to questions, some need to take off our professional masks and confess that we, too, are thirsty. Yes, we may look good externally, but internally we are tattered, torn and broken just like those whom we serve. Some of us “healers” are so wounded that our pain spews onto others in the form of abrasive words and callous tones. For some, being absent from church, that family dinner or that Christian conference is the easiest way to avoid the reality of our pain. For others of us it is just easier to wear the smile and give the customary Christian response when somebody asks how we are doing than to express our truth. For so long, we have been fake and hiding behind the sometimes superficiality of helping others that we can’t even say “I AM THIRSTY”!
In these verses, Jesus is calling us to be authentic about our own place of pain and our own need for more. He is simply asking us to confess our own needs and hurts. He is simply asking us to remove ourselves from a pedestal that sometimes seems higher than our clients, and join with them by acknowledging our own pain. It simply means that we have to confess that we, too, are in need of a Master Social Worker. Question: If Jesus could confess his need, shouldn’t we?
Lord, “I am thirsty”.
Kesslyn B. has been an Assistant Professor at Bowie State University in Maryland for almost 5 years and is Founder and CEO of The PhD Consultants. She originally joined NACSW as a student in 2004.