There’s always something we can do

We’re up against really big problems.

We know that.

Social workers are known for a sort of ‘gallows humor’, sometimes, about just how steep the odds are, and just how outmatched we sometimes feel.

But that doesn’t mean that doing nothing is ever advisable.

Or even an option.

Symbolic action–that which may have very little impact on the heart of the problem, but which sends a signal–is still better than nothing.

Have you ever written a letter to the editor about something that really gets to you? Or contacted your member of Congress, even if you get a form letter back? Then you know what I mean.

Problems left unchecked seldom go away, in the arena of social injustice.

They just get bigger. And even harder to figure out how to solve.

It’s hard to think of any problem bigger, after all, than the genocidal slaughter of millions of people, perpetrated by a homicidal regime.

Yet, A Problem from Hell uses historical anecdote to make clear that, even then, there are paths to take. When the Carter Administration intimated that they had few options for dealing with the Khmer Rouge, a newspaper columnist offered suggestions, “President Carter might speak up more than once on the subject. He might instruct Andrew Young to walk out of the United Nations General Assembly whenever the representative of ‘Democratic Kampuchea’ rises to speak. At every time and in every available forum, those who speak for the United States could call on the conscience of the world to condemn those who commit such atrocities” (p. 131).

An advocate working to stop the Rwandan genocide, looking back, lamented that the U.S. response would likely have been different, “If every member of the House and Senate had received 100 letters from people back home saying we have to do something about Rwanda, when the crisis was first developing” (p. 377).

A letter only takes 10 minutes to write. Asking friends to write too? Another 15 minutes. You know those petition requests you get on Facebook? If they are issues you care about, why not sign them?

It is so far away.

We don’t know all the facts.

It doesn’t really seem that we’re the person to do something about it.

But it isn’t. And we don’t need to. And we are.

There’s always something we can do. To think otherwise is to cede power to really wicked problems. I’m not willing to give up.

I bet you’re not either.

One response to “There’s always something we can do

  1. Pingback: Sunday Evening Share | Thinking like a social worker

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