Thursday, June 06, 2013

Leaving Loyalist

To The Graduates of Loyalist College DSW Programme As Requested by Elizabeth Schillings-McLennan

I was honoured to get a note on Facebook requesting that I send a message to you all as graduates. I admit to being somewhat daunted by writing this - it's such a big occasion and words, even lots of words, can seem inadequate when it comes to marking the really big days of our lives. But when Elizabeth wrote and asked me to do this, I decided that I really want to take the opportunity to say a few things to you.

I am impressed, first of all, that you have chosen the career you have chosen - you will be told, over and over again, by those who don't know any better, that there must be something special about you, that you must be so kind, and so patient, and so special because you do what you do. Be wary of these compliments because they aren't complements at all - they are excuses for exclusion. "There is something exceptional about those who are around exceptional people - and since I don't have what you have, keep them near you and away from me." So that's not what I mean.

When I say I am impressed by your choice, it's for a very different reason, it's because we live in the days of selfishness. Where I phones and I pads and I pods have created the ultimate culture of 'I'. Choosing to work with and support people means that you are choosing to step outside of yourself, choosing to fill your day with meeting the needs of others, choosing to listen to voices that others prefer not to hear - choosing this means that you, willingly and knowingly, are opening up yourself, your inner'I', your you-ness, to the life and to the will and to the dreams of another. That is an extraordinary choice.

There are many dangers along the path that you have chosen. The most terrifying, is the addictive nature of power. Be cautious with the power given you, in learned submission, from those you say you serve. Be cautious of the power that you have simply by being needed by another human being. Be cautious of the power given you simply by being seen as the valued in support of the devalued. The greatest power you can have, is the power to resist power. To stay silent when your voice isn't required. This takes the muscle of self control and the courage of self awareness - it can be done, but it's work. Every day at work, it's work.

Train yourself toward vigilance, remember, always, that you are only you - and that who you are ends at the tips of your fingers. Your decisions and your choices end where you end. Maintaining self-hood while welcoming the self-hood of another is perhaps the coolest skill that you can develop over time. The fact that the person you support likes, and chooses, and wants different things than you - will be evidence that they have learned to trust you enough to be who they are without fear of you, and your judgement and your power. This is an extraordinary thing.

Being in human services is cool because, in essence, you are paid to be human. Paid to explore the commonalities of the human condition. Paid to discover the incredible diversity of the human spirit. Paid to spend your day doing something that matters, something that makes a difference, something that you can be proud of. Done right, you have chosen both a job and a passion, both a passion and a mission, both a mission and a purpose.

There are those who spend their lives looking for purpose.

You will rise to it each morning.

And that's a hell of a way to start the day.

So to all you graduating from Loyalist, and from other colleges - congratulations ... both for what you have accomplished and for choosing to step away from 'I' to discover the incredible power of 'we.'


Just Heidi said...

Oh Dave!! I love this! What a wonderful send off to graduates entering the field of Human Services. I am a graduate of the Human Services Program at Holland College here on PEI as are most of my colleagues in the agency where I work. I would love to print this off and share it amongst my colleagues and Alumni. Thank you for being the great mentor you are to me and to so many others!! :) YOU ROCK!!

Lisa Monsma said...

As a professor in the DSW program at Loyalist College, I thank you for this most meaningful blog.

Belly (Liz McLennan) said...

Dave - this is incredible. Thank you so, so much for taking the time to craft something so powerful and beautiful, simply because I asked.

In a post, you have summed up our two years of learning, growing, being.

This is a perfect way to end our time at Loyalist and to head into our futures, rising to purpose.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Liz McLennan


Sher said...

A big AMEN from me! I supervise people who support people and am seeing a theme in staff struggles. The theme is power and control and people supported resisting being controlled in the only way that is taken seriously.....with behaviour. I will be sharing this post! Thank you.

Joe Macbeth said...

So very well stated, Dave. Thank you. I could only add that there will be times when others in positions of power and the "system" in which you work will challenge the power of "We" and to remember, as a direct support professional, "my first allegiance is to the person I support, all other activities and functions I perform flow from this allegiance".

Tamara said...

That's certainly what I would want those who may touch my son's life to hear.

Belinda said...

I send my congratulations to the class of graduates too. Don't ever lose your ideals; don't let them get squeezed out or dulled by the red tape and paper that sometimes overwhelms the job you long to do or by lack of funding. Print out this blog post and read it regularly. I will be forwarding it to staff, who, like me have worked in this field for decades but will find its message just as inspiring as you do. Elizabeth, thank you for the brilliant idea of asking for this message to your graduates and thereby blessing all of us! Dave, thank you for writing such a great message.

Kristine Snider said...

Dave, I am also from today's graduating class and want to send out a sincere thank you! Thank you for the wise, kind words and thank you for inspiring us! It means the world to us!! Kristine Snider

Down Syndrome NSW said...

Very well said.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Thank you! You have mentored this class (as you do all our classes) through your books and blog posts. You have modeled self-awareness and transparency for them by sharing your own journey. You have invited them to share the gifts you describe in this post - the gifts of human connection and growth. Thank you!



TMc said...

Well said.
William Pitt the Elder, Earl of Chatham and British Prime Minister from 1766 to 1778, said something similar in a speech to the UK House of Lords in 1770:

"Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it"

Josiah said...

My iPad and iPhone are major adaptive equipment that has made my world a lot more accessible.

They mean, among other things, that I can find places without allowing an hour of getting-lost time, that I can read everything even if the print is tiny, that I can keep track of documents, and that I can prevent myself from becoming too overloaded to think.

I need both my iPhone and iPad with me constantly in order to function well.

I'm tired of having my use of iPhones and iPads being presented as a selfish character flaw. It's not. It's my life.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Loyalist grads and all other DSW graduates this spring. Dave's books, videos, and blog posts have helped us understand what it means to be active, honourable,and open hearted helping professionals. Thanks, to the people we support for allowing us to do what we do.

Renee E - Loyalist DSW Grad 2013 said...

Thank-you Dave. I will always remember your words and refer back to them when the time calls. Greatly appreciated, and as always, beautifully said and written!

Jayne Wales said...

They are fabulous thoughts and so well written. I would scribe these on my skin if there was sufficient space but just to absorb and remember will have to do.

Anonymous said...

I want to tattoo these words on my skin but will need to just absorb and remember them as they are written. I have shared this widely.

Anonymous said...

FANtastic. i hope this will be one of those texts that gets reproduced over and over to everyone working in this field until it has that status of just mention the nominal title and everyone knows what yr telling us.

Pauline said...

I think when people say the word special that perhaps they mean "Extraoridinary" as well. Perhaps the comment means yes I couldnt do it for fear of power, thus stating a compliment that thank the universe there are unselfish individuals in the world who will not use their job as power. I dont think all people who say the word special are saying keep them away from me, perhaps its more a statement that they are infact incapable from being "human" that they dont have the unselfish capabilities. and shouldnt the ones who chose this profession just say thank god not everyone delves into this profession? there are many professions where it takes an "exceptional" person to do the job and find reward everyday. for example pediatric nurses who care for one pound crack/meth babies. how does that nurse everyday face the mother that induced this tragedy on an innocent human being? Nurses who have to change adult diapers, clean gangrene wounds, feed adult patients...and so on are also "exceptional" professions. but I like the word special, as it too means exceptional and unselfish and powerless.

Delia Girard said...

Beautifully stated Dave. As a graduate in 2001, I can't state enough what an impact this program has made on my life.

I've just written a book about some of the most impactful people I've witnessed, it's about their triumphs, and it is a gift back to them, a celebration of their spirit and tenacity. If it wasn't for such a fantastic foundation that Loyalist gave me, I'm sure I wouldn't have had the mindset to see people through this lens.

If interested the book can be found at this link:

I've seen a couple of your presentations and read countless of your books Dave and want to thank you for your strong and stalwart dedications and very honest approach to serving people.

Anonymous said...

Hello Dave, I am taking the DSW course at this present time at Loyalist College, Distance Student, online.. I often wondered if you were alive and well. I have leared so much from your words and teachings, and plan to carry and share as I state your information as my "Bible of living live within the reals of humanity, for all, for the greater of all" I can not thank you enough, as your words are the essence of my living soul. Thank YOU FOR ASSISTING IN OUR EDUCATION AND THE BETTERMENT OF OUR LIVES, AS WE ASSIST OTHERS IN THE BETTERMENT OF THEIRS AND EDUCATING SOCIETY OF ALL SECTOR AND FACETS. I often wonder about Patsy also.

Anonymous said...

Next week, I begin the DSW program at Loyalist. Thank you for what you have written, so very wise! What I have just read gives me the greatest first stepping stone...HUMILITY. thank you. Sheila