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Pyramid games -: A story on TV featured an overweight woman on a jerry-rigged bench in a meeting room explaining why she bought into a pyramid game. She ‘really needed’ the money. Perhaps she was one of those who cashed in her life insurance and drove long distances nightly to be in a pyramid.

One of the ‘disadvantaged’ -: This mother of 3, ages 7-12, has 4 years of college, claims to speak 5 languages, and has traveled the world. Her father was a high government official and most of her brothers and sisters are professionals. She has a number of good qualities, and there the fun stops.

Parents of mental patients -: Usually one parent called about visiting the home. (Why didn’t the son call?) The parents and son would arrive (once this was a father in a Rolls Royce with black eyes the son had given him). They would tour the house, sit down, whip out a cigarette, and discuss arrangements.

My suicidal friend -: He had a high IQ, an ivy league education, and great talent for comedy, but was an en­cyclopedia of misery. He let everyone know how awful life was as he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. He began to talk of suicide.

Slums -: After college I wanted to learn about ‘the downtrodden victims of society who lived in abject poverty’. I lived in Spanish Harlem and the lower eastside – both in New York, in the late 60s and behind the capitol in Wash. D.C. in the early 70s to learn about urban problems.

Professionals – their failings -: During each world war they discovered women could do heavy work. Before World War II, they told us the war could be avoided; and a year after it started, they told us the allies were defeated.

Social work in the past -: After frustrating years in social work, I came across an article I wished I’d seen when I was in school about social work in the l9th century. In those days social workers saw some of the poor as improvident and irresponsible. If a man came to a social agency hungry, he had to chop wood to get a meal.

Americorps – idealistic -: We were asked by outsiders what our training was about and found it hard to answer. When we asked our trainers what we were to do when we got to our assignments, we were told, ‘You’ll find out when you get there.’

Living with bums -: Any discussion of crime, addiction, welfare abuse or other anti-social behavior should involve a realistic look at bums and common criminals. After years of social work I thought I knew something about them, but it took renting rooms in my house for 25 years to find out.

Social work myths -: The public would be surprised to learn how little is accomplished in social work. They’ll probably never know, however, as results are hard to measure and social workers don’t believe in measuring. One yardstick, though, is the failure of the War on Poverty of the 60s. We spent millions fighting poverty and poverty won.
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