Uploaded by Mallorycooper89


Running Head: J. SMITH
Mallory Cooper
Walden University
August 2, 2020
SOCW - 6210
Everyone hopes to live well into their later adult years and be able to experience life to
the fullest. As an individual grow and navigates through life, their life experiences will have a
significant impact on how they view the world and the choices they make. Meaningful life
experiences have the power to negatively impact a person's life and cause significant setbacks as
well as cause them pain. On the other hand, positive life experiences can change a person in a
way that motivates them to achieve great things and gives them a positive viewpoint on life
overall. These life experiences influence a person on a biological, psychological, and
sociological level, and by understanding this, a social worker can help support that person most
Johnnie Lewis is a 75-year-old African American woman from Detroit, Michigan. She
was born and raised in the city and is the oldest of 3 siblings. Her mother gave birth to her at a
very young during a time when it was taboo to be a teenage unwed mother. Due to this fact,
Johnnie's mother was forced to give up her child to her grandmother, who was an alcoholic (J.
Smith, personal communication, 2020). While living with her grandmother, her relationship with
her mother was unconventional as they were raised more like siblings (J. Smith, personal
communication, 2020). Also, her grandmother, who had eight children of her own, lived very
poor and struggled to make ends meet after her husband was killed in a factory accident. This
forced Johnnie to go nights where she did not eat or times where she did not have shoes that fit
(J. Smith, personal communication, 2020).
Over time the living conditions in her grandmother's house became unmanageable. This
caused her grandmother to decide to send Johnnie to live with her great aunt and uncle, who was
much more economically stable (J. Smith, personal communication, 2020). This caused Johnnie
to move from the eastside of Detroit to the Westside of Detroit. This distance was over 30
minutes away from her mother. While living with her aunt, she was given her own room, stable
food, and clothing. Living with her great aunt was a much different experience for Johnnie as her
aunt was very religious and strict (J. Smith, personal communication, 2020). Her aunt also had
much older who were all adults. Johnnie was given many chores around the house, and if these
chores were not completed, the consequences were harsh punishments and physical abuse. Also,
Johnnie experienced sexual abuse by the oldest son of her great aunt, who would sneak into her
room at night (J. Smith, personal communication, 2020).
Through her adolescence, Johnnie lived with her great aunt and learned to adjust to the
new environment. Johnnie graduated from Northwestern High school with high grades and
hoped to become a nurse. During her senior year, she meets her first boyfriend, named Richard
Smith (J. Smith, personal communication, 2020). The two dated for a few months and became
intimate once. From this relationship, Johnnie became pregnant with her son Eric at 18 years old.
This pregnancy caused her aunt to force her out of the house due to her religious beliefs. This
forced Johnnie to rely on her boyfriend's family for help. His family opened their home to
Johnnie, son, for her to be able to work and find stable housing (J. Smith, personal
communication, 2020).
One of Johnnie's first jobs was a clerk at the bank, and while working at the bank, she
read a newspaper ad about taking the social services test to become a social worker. Johnnie took
the test and passed with a high score (J. Smith, personal communication, 2020). This allowed her
to start working for the state as a social worker in the late 1960's. Through this employment, she
encountered many people who grew up like herself. This allowed her to work through much of
the trauma of her childhood. She also was able to reconnect with her mother, who had given
birth to two more daughters. Through this reconnection, she was able to establish a relationship
with her siblings, but her mother refused to acknowledge her publicly as her daughter (J. Smith,
personal communication, 2020).
Johnnie continued to raise her son as a single parent with the help of her child's father's
family and became very successful in the social work field. She was able to purchase a house and
car as well as send her son off to college (J. Smith, personal communication, 2020). Eventfully
her only son would move out of state, get married, and produce Johnnie one grandson. She also
never married but admits to having many great loves. She retired from social work after 45 years
and enjoyed a life of traveling and shopping (J. Smith, personal communication, 2020). Johnnie
also for many years was a very healthy adult, but lately, she has had diabetes, which has lowered
her mobility. This decreased mobility has caused Johnnie to depend on others more, which is a
change for this once very independent women. She admits many days do get lonely, but she has
no regrets about her life (J. Smith, personal communication, 2020).
According to Erik Erikson, the life experiences that Johnnie faced at a very young age
influenced how she developed throughout life. Her initial abandonment by her mother produces a
very early need for love and acceptance (Zastrow et al., 2016). This need transitioned throughout
her childhood interaction with her aunt and into early adulthood with her first relationship.
Furthermore, the sexual abuse she experienced forced her to develop mistrust in men as she
admitted she could never fully open up emotionally to men. On the other hand, the traumatic
experiences from her childhood aided her in her career as a social worker. She was able to
identify with her clients and help them in ways other workers could not (Zastrow et al., 2016).
In interviewing Ms. Smith, It helped me develop a better understanding of how a person's
life experiences and can influence their life choices (Zastrow et al., 2016). I found it surprising
how a person who experienced such a traumatic childhood could grow up to be such an
optimistic and caring person. During my interview, she kept referencing how, through the power
of God, she was able to move past her beginnings and make a life for herself. One thing I learned
and plan to use in my social work practice is how important it is to use a person's strengths to
help them overcome their circumstances (Zastrow et al., 2016). Ms. Smith has many advantages
like perseverance and a reliable support system in her son's family. She also is knowledgeable
and resourceful. All of which are qualities that helped her be successful in overcoming her
experiences. By doing a strengths analysis in clients like Ms. Smith, I will be able to help my
clients see the strengths they may not have known they had (Zastrow et al., 2016).
In conclusion, as a person progresses through life, they will experience things in their life
that will ultimately influence the person they become. These influences will affect how a person
develops relationships, behave in careers, and affects their overall choices in life. This is evident
in the presence of Ms. Smith, who experienced many traumatic events in her life. Some of these
events had a negative effect on her life, and some have had a positive impact on her life. Overall
they make the woman she is today, and through her many strengths, she has been able to
overcome adversity to live a beautiful life.
Johnnie Smith [Telephone interview]. (2020, August 6).
Zastrow, C. H., & Kirst-Ashman, K. K. (2016). Understanding human behavior and the social
environment (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.