Celebrating Purpose-Filled Work

Elizabeth J. Clark, Ph.D., ACSW, MPHFrom the Director

A plaque hangs in my kitchen where I see it each morning. It's only three words, but it speaks volumes. It simply states, "Dwell in Possibility." It's the title of a poem written by Emily Dickinson who lived from 1830 until 1886. In her lifetime, Dickinson wrote 1,775 poems. "Dwell in Possibility" is number 657.

In this particular poem, possibility is a house, a structure. Some literary scholars contend that Dickinson used architectural vocabulary in this poem to describe the spaciousness of the imagination.

Dickinson's poem reminds me that each day is unlike any other day. Each day is filled with purpose, potential, and opportunity. I can start anew, and I hold much of the power for shaping the day. I can begin with enthusiasm and energy, looking forward, seeing the possibility that the day holds.

This year's theme for Social Work Month is "Purpose and Possibility." Both are essential elements of our profession.

Social workers have a passion for social justice, for fairness, for making this world a better place. It is this purpose that forms the bedrock of our careers, but it is possibility that keeps us moving forward. We not only dwell in possibility, but we create a culture of possibility for ourselves, for our clients, and for our country.

Social workers understand that there is always the possibility of positive change, of the next time, the next challenge, the next success. This is true of our clinical work as well as our advocacy work.

It is also true for our careers. A social work education opens many doors. It is, as Dickinson wrote, "more numerous of windows - superior for doors." Social work presents choices in both practice setting and level of focus - whether micro, meso, or macro. With a social work degree, you can be a clinician, an administrator, an educator, or a researcher. You can become a community organizer or an entrepreneur, a public health specialist or a public servant, a politician or a philanthropist. You can combine your social work degree with law, nursing, divinity, or pharmacy and extend your career options even further. The possibilities for achieving our purposes are boundless.

In recognition of social work month, NASW has launched a new online career center.

We hope you will visit the career center when you feel the need to renew your professional passion, to refocus your purpose, or to expand your career possibilities. We have also profiled 50 social workers who represent many ways to use a social work degree. We ask each of you to add your own profile to the Web site so that students, potential students, employers, and the media can see the amazing possibilities of a social work career and can better understand the wonderful, purpose-filled work that each of you do. Best wishes for social work month.