It was a cold night in western Nebraska. About this same time of year but 20 years ago. I was giving myself a personal concert as I drove down the highway, a little too fast, …
The One in Front of You
I pulled up to a stop at the corner gas station in Bridgeport, Nebraska—a one light town where tumbleweed regularly passes through the intersection. As I got out of my car, I noticed a man huddled near the dumpster clearly sheltering from the harsh wind. He did not have more than a light windbreaker on and was clearly traveling alone and for some time. I immediately asked him, “Are you okay?” He said, teeth chattering, “Yes.” He was unconvincing.
I went inside and asked the clerk about the gentleman. He didn’t realize he was there. I purchased extra food and water and hot coffee, took it to the sheltering man and asked him again, if he was okay. I had a fleeting thought, “Give him your coat.” I was wearing a full parka as protection from the weather. I still had a 50 mile drive to my home and knew I could end up in the middle of the sandhills without survival wear. I didn’t give my coat away that night and it has bothered me ever since. A nagging question—what happened to the man? Had I missed my opportunity to make a difference? He was the one in front of me.
I was so bothered that I went to my spiritual leader and talked to him about it. I told him how I felt called to be part of changing the lives of throngs of people and how was I going to do that if I couldn’t even give up my coat to one? Pastor Schaumbach introduced me to the idea that it’s not everyone’s duty to change lives of many and that instead, focus on changing the life in front of you.
Twenty plus years later I work with an entire team of social workers and social service devotees and each team member focuses on the one in front of them. And to my amazement, this commitment to service is not limited to those with formal training or master’s degrees. Just last week a nine year old boy was brought to our agency doors by a neighboring business owner—the boy was hungry and looking for work to help his mother pay the rent. He was the one in front of our executive assistant—she provided him with food vouchers and a phone number to give to his mother so she could get the help she needed.
March is Social Worker Appreciation Month and whether you work in the social services industry, the schools, or any other community serving organization, YOU are appreciated for focusing on the one life in front of you who needs your help. Social workers are highly educated, smart and resourceful. They work abnormal hours in order to be there for children, individuals and families. Social workers often sacrifice their own personal and family time to serve other families in need. They do this willingly and with intention to change lives for GOOD.
Please send a shout out to all the amazing social workers this month and know that each of us can be part of changing lives for GOOD by focusing on the one in front of you.