When I began my education in the UT Austin Master’s of Social Work program, I planned to intern somewhere where I would be working with children. Children are the population I am most passionate about, particularly children experiencing child abuse and neglect.
I never imagined that I would be assigned a placement working with a population I had never even considered working with before — the homeless. When I found out I was going to be working at Trinity Center, I was slightly annoyed because I felt like my placement was so random. I later came to realize how deliberate my being at Trinity Center actually was.
When asked to describe my experience here, I really didn’t even know where to begin. I guess the first two words that come to mind are “Divine Intervention.” I believe my placement here at Trinity was strategically planned by the Creator himself. Only He could have known how big a blessing this place would be to me. I have learned more here about myself, people, the professional field of social services and life than in all of my years of education and schooling.
Working with Trinity Center staff has proved the saying, “We are small, but mighty,” to be entirely true. With only four full-time staff, it is nothing short of amazing to see how great an impact Trinity Center staff has on the lives of the people it serves. I have learned that there is more power in how you do your work and why you do your work than in the number of employees actually working.
Trinity Center volunteers have taught me that not all people are self-centered, egotistical, greedy and judgmental, but that folks who have a genuine love and concern for humanity do indeed exist. Trinity Center interns have provided me the comfort of knowing that I am not the only one struggling to figure out how to do this job and do it successfully. The other interns have encouraged me in ways that I doubt they’re even aware of.
It is the Trinity Center neighbors who have taught me the most valuable lessons of all though! Twice a week, for the past eight months, I have walked into the center to find a group of people struggling with mental illness, suffering from lack of adequate housing and shelter, fighting to beat addictions, enduring police discrimination and brutality, searching for food and clothing, striving to keep living under circumstances, and in situations, that are nearly unlivable. They have shown me what resilience, faith, and hope look like. I will always look back on my time at Trinity Center and think about the neighbors.
What’s special about my experience with the neighbors is that I can take it with me and still apply it to my work with children in the future. I once blamed the parents of children in the system for everything that caused a child to be there. I assumed the parents of children in the system were careless, lazy, or simply didn’t know any better than what they were doing; however many of the neighbors are parents.
The neighbors have taught me that my assumptions are not always valid. Some have children who are not in the system and even the ones that do are not necessarily bad parents. Despite homelessness, these people are parents who love, support and want what’s best for their children. Everyday that they survive they are showing their children and the rest of the world what it looks like to feel discouraged and even defeated, yet continue to live and survive and fight and BE and EXIST. I see them. I acknowledge them. I applaud them. And I thank them!
[To support Trinity Center, please join us for our annual fundraiser, The Barbara Jordan Celebration and Cocktail Hour, at 5:30 p.m. on April 29th at St. David’s Church. Click here for tickets!]