The Impact We Have on Others

Marc Herstandby Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW

About seventeen years ago my oldest son Ari was playing in a middle school all city honors band. One performance he made a mistake which made him feel terrible. His all city honors band director, Mr. Saltzman, saw that Ari was distressed and put his arm around him and asked what was going on. When Ari explained his mistake Mr. Saltzman told him that there are mistakes made in almost every performance everywhere. Ari felt tremendously relieved and is currently making a living as a singer songwriter, consultant and book author on the music business industry.

Several years after Ari graduated from High School Mr. Saltzman was getting discouraged and thinking about quitting as a band director. One day he received a package in the mail with Ari’s first CD. In this CD was one song entitled, “Mr. Saltzman” and it described how Ari thought of him as a hero who “gives his love and never really knows his impact”. Mr. Saltzman wrote back to Ari that it brought tears to his eyes and changed his idea about leaving the field.

In his chapter entitled, “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” in his book Living a Life That Matters, Rabbi Harold Kushner discusses how we often do not realize the impact we have on other people’s lives, which can lead to burnout resulting from a “sense of futility; the fear that all the hard work isn’t making a difference” The cure, Kushner states is to “…realize how much of a difference (we are making) in people’s lives, even if no one bothers to thank (us).” Kushner also talks about individuals who have come out of very difficult backgrounds and done great things will generally attribute their success to one person who believed in them.

I hope that all of you, my fellow social workers, know the impact you are having on your clients, students, staff and communities, even if no one thanks you. Although your work will not make you famous or wealthy, its impact is priceless. Whether you are working in child welfare as a supervisor, initial assessment worker or ongoing worker, as a hospital or medical social worker, as a nursing home social worker, school social worker, as a clinical social worker in private practice or in the public sector, as a social worker with runaway youth or homeless adults, as a program coordinator, community organizer, administrator or any other social work role, you have an impact beyond your knowledge. The clients need you and our society needs you! Thank you for what you do every day to touch individual lives and make this a better world.