Once, someone told me not to continue working as a social worker because they thought I was “too sensative” to deal with all the pain that I would encounter in this line of work.Â They thought that it would destroy my art.Â Well, this person is right and wrong.Â I am still creating art, but I have to say that I do lug around a pretty thick crust of defensiveness at times to protect myself from feeling “too deeply” the pain of the people whom I work with.
But lately, though, I have been pretty burdened by the kinds of problems that I am encountering here in the hospital.Â More homeless people who are suicidal and have no place to go.Â People who can’t get their psychiatric medications becuase their counties have no more indigent funds to pay for the medications these people need to stay psychiatrically stable.Â People who drink and drug themselves to numb the pain of their problems, and end up wishing that they were dead when they clear.Â
So, I walk among people who have these kinds of problems for 8 hours every weekday.Â With the economy at 10.6% unemployment, the resources I need to help people are becomming scarce.Â I can’t depend on the social service system to help me get resources to people like it did before.Â It breaks my heart.Â I ask myself every day that I am here if I will be able to help people … and this kind of dispair seems to hang over me.Â
I sometimes worry that I am getting depressed … and it is possible that I am.Â Making art, playing with my kids and talking with my wife are the things that give me temporary distraction from the burden of watching people suffer.Â I feel like the waters of a flood are backing up to the door of our hospital … and it is slowly squeezing out my breath.Â I paint, I drum, I play and I pray for the people who would gladly change places with me because they are worried that they will drown under the waters as opposed to being a spectator.
I have been working for the past two weeks on a large painting again.Â This piece is about resurrection, and I am thinking about calling it “Lotus Resurrection”, but I am not sure yet.Â As I paint it, I am becomming saddened by the fact that I hope that the suffering on this earth will end soon and that things will get better.Â My fear is that they will not.
At this point, discontinuing my role as a social worker would only be like poking out my eyes or turning my head – it would not actually end poverty and helplessness.Â No, being aware is necessary, I only need to find a way to continue to release my own pain to God so that I can enter the flood each day and try to pull more people from the storm.
I am trying to pray Psalm 13 this week.Â I often pray this when I feel so distant from God like I do right now:
“How long, O LORD?Â Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart? …
… But I trust, in your unfailing love.”