Sunday, June 20, 2010

Walk with the People

Today was the last day of the Fifth North American Conference of Spirituality and Social Work. I was fighting a bit of conference fatigue and really had to get myself out of bed and to the keynote address this morning. I'm glad that I did. It was given by Dr. Alean Al-Krenawi a social worker and scholar who serves Bedouin Arabs in the Negev. He told an interesting story about how he used to have clients who would see him twice and then not come back. His father finally told him that with his Western education he was flying in an airplane while his Bedouin Arab clients were walking. He needed to get out of his plane and walk with the people and he would be more successful. Dr. Al-Krenawi took his father's words to heart and it shaped his practice and scholarship particularly the need to focus on localized knowledge rather than global knowledge (really Western knowledge imposed around the globe). He also talked a lot about help seeking and healing practices in Islam. I wanted to meet him but did not get the chance. Oh well.

Next, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop about spiritual bypassing by the esteemed Dr. Michael Sheridan. Spiritual bypassing is essentially using spirituality as a way of avoiding dealing with problems in your life. I found myself thinking about more than a few Baha'is I know during this presentation!

We had a meeting of members of the U.S. Society for Spirituality and Social Work and I got to learn a bit more about the inner workings of the organization. We might end up having the next North American conference in DC. next year which would definitely make travel easier and less expensive.

After lunch I went to a really interesting paper presentation about a qualitative study of an aboriginal community that had entered into a negotiated agreement with a mining company. It was all about the psychosocial impact of the mining company's operation on aboriginal lands. The whole issue of First Nations people was very prominent at this conference, something I rarely hear anything about in the U.S. at least where I live. All you hear about is casinos!

I was beginning to run out of steam but got myself to a final presentation about whether spirituality could save social work. It was a thought provoking presentation and we got into talking about social work as an agent of social control. It was my kind of conversation.

Afterward, I slipped away with a couple of colleagues and enjoyed some Dairy Queen, something I haven't done since I was a teenager. We laughed and talked about complete nonsense and then made our farewells. I went back to the dorm where I was staying and promptly fell asleep.

I am determined to get home for Father's Day and get my arms around my wife and son! A prayer or two for safe travel would be most welcome.