A Letter To My Students
You are about to enter a very difficult profession.
You will face your own disillusionment, secondary trauma, grief, and burnout.
You will be overworked, underpaid, and under-appreciated.
When you are weary in your job
remember your calling.
Your calling is much bigger
than your job.
Your job is just simply the place that decides
exactly who you will be blessing.
But you are called to be a blessing wherever you are,
whoever you serve, whatever your title may be.
You are called to be the blessing that you already are.
You may have a job description but this is your calling description:
You are called to the poor, the powerless, the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the other. The unloved, the unwanted, the undocumented. The weak, the vulnerable, the have-not, the outcast, the misfit, the homeless, the refugee, the huddled masses. The lost, the hurting, the grieving, the broken, the destitute, the young, the old, the straight, the gay, the full spectrum of Human flourishing and human suffering, every shade of beauty, every expression of brokenness, the dark corners of the human condition.
Your calling will take you to high places, large buildings, and important people. Don’t buy into those illusions or be tempted to play those games. That is ultimately bad theatre and the sooner you see behind the curtain the better.
No matter your faith tradition, or lack thereof, you are called to the work of Jesus. You are called to be the hands and feet that serve a broken world, that bring light to dark places, that bring blood flow to dead places. You are called to inspirit. You are called to transformation and embodiment.
No matter your race you are called to continue the work of Dr. King and all of the freedom fighters whose work predates ours. You are called to the front lines of the social fragmentation, tragedy, and brutality that the human heart is capable of.
You are called into the full range of human brokenness. You are called to look into the eyes of the oppressed and the child molester and see something more.
You are called to the continued work of Mahatma Gandhi. You are called to peace in the midst of chaos. You are called to be an ambassador of peace and a counterweight in a violent world.
And ultimately you are called to yourself. This is your calling to fulfill. You are called to embrace your flaws, to submit to your own continued transformation, to fulfill your destiny, to develop your unique gifting.
In this profession even your Wounds will serve you if you serve your wounds. If you do your own work you will see that your wounds are your greatest teachers. They can endow you with eyes to see beneath the surface and ears to hear the cries of the world. They are the portals to your empathy, compassion, concern, understanding, and lovingkindness. Your wounds will be your teacher and your guide. Your wounds are wise. Your wounds are your shared humanity. They qualify you and prepare you for this very spiritual work.
This world doesn’t hold this profession in high esteem but that puts you in great company including the above mentioned martyrs.
The world is about to be a better place because of what you are about to unleash on it. Consider yourselves a royal priesthood. You aren’t fighting flesh and blood only. If you don’t believe in spiritual warfare you will pretty soon. Put on the full armor of God. And remember that there are a great cloud of witnesses watching. When you feel down, look up. And then look around. There’s work to be done.
I love you,
Tony Caldwell, LCSW
University of Mississippi
Department of Social Work