Great philosophies are born in the midst of turning points. A counseling approach based on the foundation of a life changing experience will endure and permeate the lives it treats. Every helper, no matter what level of expertise, must bring a part of these profound experiences to the counseling table.
I remember a particular day in the 10th grade, staring into space, daydreaming, disconnected from my surroundings. I was sitting in my English class when the teacher asked the class to write a poem. I was disinterested, slumped on my desk and prepared for a long nap. However, the teacher, Mrs. Kurzer was persistent in getting the class to write a poem. So I wrote a few lines, I can’t recall exactly what I wrote. But I have always remembered what happened next. Mrs. Kurzer read the poem and I could see the expression on her face change… and she looked at me and said “wow! This is really good poetry!” And then she asked “can I make copies of this to show to my other classes?” Now for a 15 year old kid like me at the time, who had experienced for years verbal and physical abuse from teachers in the public school system, this one gesture pulled me out of the depths of low-self esteem and fear. Until that point, I had one foot in dropping out. Until that point, I was utterly convinced that I had no abilities, that I was dumb; there was no confidence in the sense of accomplishing anything. After that day, Mrs. Kurzer continued to encourage me with writing. I developed a strong interest in poetry. Aside from developing a talent, it gave me the gift of believing that I can… that I had a place in the world… I can contribute and create and I was good at something… and this all started with someone conveying a message that I was able. It just took one person to bring that out in me… to sincerely express a compliment of an ability that laid dormant within. This event paved the way for creativity, for taking risks, and most importantly helping others using this philosophy of elevating a person and elevating the moment through bringing out in people their dormant talents and capabilities.
About a year ago I was working with a 19 year old young man who was in jail awaiting trial for murder. This young man was likely going to spend the rest of his life behind bars. He grew up in an impoverished neighborhood without a father figure or any positive role models. The only sense of purpose and encouragement he had was the one given to him by his friends who spent their time committing crimes and using drugs. It was through spending time with him and forming an alliance of trust and genuine encouragement that he was able to discover an exceptional talent with numbers. In less than a month he was studying for his GED exam and soon after began tutoring other inmates. His entire demeanor changed… his face was brighter, his attitude was positive, and he gave off a strong sense of confidence. For once, he had a sense of purpose and ability that was awakened through a genuine and caring relationship. I often wondered, what could have been of his life, only if he had discovered his purpose earlier… if someone would have brought out this capability from within him- the person behind the cell door could have easily been a great accountant or professor, or better yet, an influential leader in his community.
When people lack purpose than you end up with a society that seeks fulfillment in the most destructive ways. A capability unrealized, no matter how small, is a tragedy.. When you look around in your community, around the local treatment centers, the local streets, or even within your own family or circle of friends and you see people that you can help lift out of the depths of despair through elevating them through encouragement and genuine love then every moment and every encounter becomes an opportunity to take part in what truly matters most… saving a life and in turn saving generations.