Many people perceive the role of social work to be the conduit to solve the poor and disadvantaged’s problems. Aid may be given in the form of money, clothing, or shelter with little or nothing expected in return. Often this is necessary as the recipient’s situation is dire and requires immediate attention and there are no other ways or means to help. Individuals and families often become dependent on this assistance over time.
In workforce development, we prepared people to enter or re-enter the workforce so that they would become self-sufficient, find family sustaining employment and eventually move from dependency to independence. It was important to help the individual learn how to make sound choices, develop a plan, and acquire the training and skills necessary to get and keep a job. I often referred to our role as being like the proverb which encourages us about “teaching a man to fish”.
I felt it was more important to give the tools and let them build their dreams than to give them money and make them dependent. Often, I found our caseworkers enabling dependency and that angered me. It was a short-term solution that led to life long problems.
The heron has to wade carefully and skillfully to find and catch his fish meals each day. He was taught these skills by his parents and it empowered him to live. It is an important lesson for all of us, to do for ourselves. So when we feel compelled to help, teach a skill when you give the gift. The lesson will last a lifetime. The benefit will be abundant. That is the beauty of learning.