Attending a small, private Lutheran school had its difficulties. Although I was from a poor neighborhood, I found myself in an affluent community surrounded by privilege. Understandably, I struggled with developing a sense of self-identity and meaningful friendships in school.
I became close with the school social worker there. When I had problems fighting with my peers, she gave me the space to reflect on my behavior and validated my struggles. I can’t recall everything she said to me but she made me feel valued and helped me work through the challenges of my formative years. When I look back, our relationship was strange at first glance. She was a middle-aged white woman with a blue eye shadow obsession and I was a young African American student hungry for new and challenging experiences.
Although that relationship helped shaped me, this blog isn’t about school social work; it’s about the power of connection. My relationship with my school social worker wasn’t forced or required. It flourished because of her ability to express love without expectation. Working with people through the lenses of social work is not for the faint of heart. One is present at some of the best and worst times in a client’s life. As a social worker, one is required to not only value people, but also to believe in their truths, their stories. Throughout my educational experience, I’ve had the privilege of meeting social workers who loved me without expectations. Their influence has helped make me who I am today as well as shaped my perspective on social work. I’ve made it a requirement to interact with clients without any preconceived expectations. This not only brings comfort to them but also allows me to trust God to reveal the purpose of our relationship.
My faith in God and the values of Christ guide how I interact with others from an authentic perspective. Philippians 2: 3-5 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” This Scripture is my compass for life. I’ve been blessed to have a life that is dedicated to serving others with a pure heart. Working with people can be a bittersweet journey. People are complex, and with that complexity we must allow them to be completely human, with less judgment and more love.
Noel Huddleston is a senior social work major at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illlinois. She has been a student representative eon NACSW’s Board of Directors since 2016. Currently Noel is working within a restorative justice hub on the south side of Chicago.