To conclude our series of student essays on calling, from the conclusion to this spring’s Intro to History course, we’re happy to share the following reflections from Justin Haughton ’21, who explains why a minor in History proved to be such a good complement to his major in Social Work.

I don’t think anyone aspires to be a social worker. The job is mentally draining, the hours tiring, and the work environments lead to burn out. Social work students are constantly reminded of the meager salaries that they will earn and the dangerous work conditions that they are setting themselves up for. Yet, this is the field that I call home and it remains to be one of the most rewarding vocations that I have ever studied. The wrongs of the past cannot be undone by the apathy of the present, nor the passivity of the future. Rather, the wrongs of the past must be understood for their time and then analyzed with a present lens.

Photo courtesy of Justin Haughton

My calling to the field of social work was not out of pure joy or a love of working with some of the most difficult clientele on the planet. However, prior to this decision, I had begun my search for a profession like many other people. I was addicted to the search for a career that I would love. Something that would bring my excitement and joy in the work I was doing. These careers ranged all the way from automotive mechanic to police officer to school teacher. It wasn’t until I was continually praying about what field I should enter that I finally was called to social work. The Lord made me realize that there are too many people searching for their dreams and too few people trying to carry out his will. Therefore, my experience was much like that of Jeff Haanen. I am in full agreement with his statement:

Ironically, when we think about work, chasing after our own happiness will never bring us happiness. It is serving others and pointing beyond ourselves that happiness is tossed in along the way. To find happiness, forget about passion. Give yourself to what the world needs. Or better yet, give yourself to God, and let him use you as He sees fit.[1]

As I see it, the Lord is calling me to serve the most vulnerable and exploited populations in my own community. This is a task that social work was specifically designed for, which is why I call it home.

The study of social work and history seem to go hand in hand. If anyone were to pick up a history book and read through the pages there would be an obvious theme to emerge. Not all of history is “happy”. In fact, many historical events are riddled with terrible tragedies and inequalities along the way. These same events have left a major stamp on our society today. Because of past decisions, there lie inequalities in wealth, housing, health-care, education, and many more categories. For example, if one were to take a look at the past and current relationship between Native Americans and the U.S. government, they would see the very inequalities that I speak of. You have a government that has broken countless treaties with the sovereign Native nations and engaged in bloody massacres. Or even the relationship between African Americans and the U.S. government, where years of segregation and Jim Crow laws led to many of the major inequalities that are seen by social workers today. But, what do we do with all of this knowledge? As Tracy McKenzie puts it, “at some point we have to stop and wrestle with the significance to the present of the knowledge we’re acquiring. We have to ask ourselves, ‘So what? Why does this matter, now, to me?’” After all, “knowledge always comes with moral responsibility.”[2]

This is exactly where social work steps in. It is simply not enough to know about major violations of human rights and atrocities on a large scale. We have to apply and address what we have learned to the populations that have suffered because of these previous actions. As social workers, it is our job to uphold the dignities and rights of every single people group and individual that we come in contact with. However, to better address each situation, we have to know the history behind who we are dealing with. There are certain things that some people have gone through that we can never even begin to understand unless we take the time to study and listen to those before us. By doing this, we can only hope to serve our clients’ needs to the very best of our abilities.

Studying history may be the best decision I have ever made when it comes to my major in social work. Through the introduction to history course and many of my other history classes, I have not only learned about the unique perspectives and beliefs of other cultures, but I have also learned how to properly study history. Historical events cannot be stuffed into a box for our own use and instead need to be treated or studied as they are. Overall, I have to say that this process has made me a better student. Bethel alumnus Andrew Van Eps ’12 stated it perfectly, that historical study “helped me become a more well-rounded individual while also providing a unique perspective on my major course of study”. [3] Of course, I enjoy history for the content itself. I mean who doesn’t like learning about George Washington crossing the Delaware or reading the journals of Frederick Douglass. Yet, in the overall scheme of things, the study of history has allowed me to become less self-centered and focus on the larger picture at hand.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my historical studies at Bethel. Not only have the classes been extremely useful, but the professors have also done a great job in showing me why historical study matters, even today. In about a year, as I eventually seek employment, I hope to be able to express to employers the importance of my history minor. That it has made me a much more understanding individual, who realizes the importance of productive discussion and the insignificance of my own life on the larger scale of human existence. As a whole, our society could use more history majors and minors who have taken the time to understand the important lessons that the field has to offer.

– Justin Haughton


[1] Jeff Haanen, “What’s wrong with ‘do what you love?’”, Mission:Work, June 27, 2014, https://www.patheos.com/blogs/missionwork/2014/06/whats-wrong-with-do-what-you-love.

[2] Robert Tracy McKenzie, A Little Book for New Historians: Why and How to Study History (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2019), 93, 95.

[3] Andrew Van Eps, “Environmental Science Major, History Minor,” AC 2nd, Nov. 22, 2013, https://bethelhistory.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/environmental-sciences-major-history-minor.

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