Monday, May 21, 2012


Last week, Maurice Sendak, author of many children's books, including my favorite, 'Where the Wild Things Are', died. As I read a review of his life in one of the local newspapers, I was struck with how thoughtful his story messages were. And that I may have missed them when I read them to my own daughter, who is now in her twenties.  He wrote about the dark side of life, children's fears, their frustrations with parents and their sense of powerlessness. And as I read further in the article, I became aware of another theme in his writing that has relevance to social work practice.

In his book, "We Are All in the Dumps," he pictured two quasi ruffian homeless kids, Jack and Guy, who found another orphaned boy they initially had planned to bully and overpower.  As the story evolved, the two boys decided that rather than rough up the homeless tyke, they would take him back to their cardboard shanty to care for him.

At first, the sad story of homelessness, hunger and poverty seemed overwhelmingly cruel and hopeless- a moral atrocity for a society that would allow kids to live on the street in poverty. However, reading on was another message--the message of kindness and caring in the face of a societal outrage.  Jack and Guy were, indeed, still on the streets, on their own, no money, no home but their kindness shown through.

What does this mean for social work whose dual mission is to support social workers and the profession, as well as to address the causes of homelessness, poverty and vulnerability? As we all focus on this dual mission throughout our work, in so many settings, that we often do not see the results of our efforts- that there has been no cure or resolution to these societal injustices. However, what is clear is that we continue to work toward solutions; in counseling sessions with our clients, with families facing homelessness and poverty and in the State House with legislators and administrators who are charged with bringing solutions.  This is the Jack and Guy in all of us--the caring and kindness, as well as our dedication to changing systems that are not so kind.

Farewell, Maurice Sendak.  Your books are for all of us.

Carol J. Trust

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