We all matter, and we need to hear it - Beside the Point


(With the indulgence of our readership and a nod to the mental health of our communities, today’s Beside the Point has been offered to Dr. Mike Maher of Counseling Associates, Inc,  Mike has had a profound, life-saving influence on me over the past three years and it’s our pleasure to step aside and let him connect to our audience for a very important message.)
Life is always teaching us, so the saying goes. A saying I believe, and have often used myself with the added query: But are we willing to learn?
I have found over time that life will even repeat its lessons… perhaps until we submit and learn. In recent weeks I have been faced with a series of tragedies that have impacted people close to me, although not impacting me directly. Avoidable tragedy.  Tragedy likely causing anguish and misery for decades to come for the family and friends of those directly affected by those events.
Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending on the perspective), in my line of work I have learned to befriend pain, sadness, grief, loss, change, challenge, hardship, and countless other terms we use to describe the struggles of humanity. In so doing, I think I have learned a profound truth about people: There is really very little that separates us. We may have different hobbies, interests, personalities, lifestyles, or political ideologies, but in the end we all pretty much want the same thing. Everyone wants to be treated with respect and kindness.
Threads of life when woven into the fabric of interaction with others creates meaningful connection, even if only for a moment. Some of the most memorable events in my life have these elements at the core of the experience.
Another profound AND true saying says, you may forget what people say to you, but you will always remember how they made you feel.  How are we doing in that? How are you doing in that effort? How am I doing? 
That was the question I was left with after the series of tragedies. I came home from work a few weeks ago and was talking with my wife about these events and the sense of disbelief and shock and blurted out to her, “Somebody has to do something.  I have to do something.” And that is why you are reading my words this morning. It’s like expecting Bob and Tom but getting Chuck and Mike…minus Chuck.
I would be remiss to not express my gratitude and appreciation to Chuck for granting me this forum to allow me to share some thoughts and ideas that have imposed settlement on my life. I look forward to reading Beside the Point every Sunday, just like you, and hope that over the next few minutes you will indulge me and maybe, just maybe, we begin to make a difference in our own little corner of the world and make it a better place.
Almost 14 years ago my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. A gut punch at the time. Life was sailing along. We had been married 25 years, had two great kids, celebrated our anniversary in Hawaii and came home to a diagnosis that pretty much changed everything. The kids are still great, the marriage is still going strong, but cancer changes things.
Through the course of her treatment, we were referred to a doctor in the Integrative Medicine Department at Mayo Clinic to help her deal with the emotional impact of cancer and all the changes to her body.  She talked with us about evidence-based approaches to manage stress. Her name escapes me now, but what she taught us was profound.  She spoke about mindfulness and being intentional.  She spoke about taking time to be intentional with others, to see others as people, not the role they fill in life. (Remember that “life is always teaching us” thing… lesson one, October 2010).
Being intentional became, and remains, my favorite expression. Doing something on purpose, for a purpose. I can’t tell you the purpose for your life, but I can confidently say that being deliberate needs to be part of that purpose. It’s memorable and meaningful. Doing this may not change everything, but it will make a difference to the recipient of that expression. Guaranteed. It’s simple really. It takes no special training. No special skill. Just noticing. Making a phone call. Sending a text. Stopping someone on the street. Conveying a sentiment of interest. Being the difference in someone’s life in some way today.
We need to be better people to the people around us. The people closest to us. We need to value others with authentic and sincere expressions of appreciation, consideration, compassion, recognition, and acknowledgement, among other similar actions.
I’m not suggesting every single interaction needs to have profound meaning, but we cannot leave room for the thought to fester in anyone’s mind that they don’t matter. That their life is unimportant. That everyone would be better off without them. That their life has no value.  That circumstances are too much to overcome. They need to know that they are irreplaceable. That their life matters.  That they matter.  
Because that is the point.

Mike Maher, Lee County, mental health, counseling, opinion, editorial, Beside the Point, Sunday, guest, author, Pen City Current, intentionality, caring, compassion, community, doctor, support, appreciation. Chuck Vandenberg,


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