I am so very grateful to love the work I do. I don’t just say that casually. I really love the work that I do. And so it always surprises me when I am asked, as I have been many times in my career, if I ever get tired of listening to people’s problems. My response is always the same: ''I don’t listen to people’s problems; I listen to their stories.'' Throughout my professional career as both a minister and a psychotherapist, I have had the honor of being invited into thousands of people's stories. It is a humbling experience every time I am allowed to walk with someone on part of their life journey, as together we discover new possibilities for them. Problems are always temporary, and only arise to let us know there is some important part of our unfolding life story that we haven’t quite figured out yet.
Each of us have been shaped by many stories throughout our lives--the stories of our families, our community, our culture, and our faith. When we are young, we simply take in these stories without question. As we mature, we increasingly become the authors of the narratives of our lives, deepening and adding more complexity to the stories that have formed us. All forms of counseling are a way of helping people reflect upon and expand the narratives of their lives, and in the process forming and reforming one's self, one's family, or one's spirituality.
Speaking of the stories of our lives, allow me to tell you a few about my life. I grew up on the East coast until my family moved to the suburbs of Milwaukee when I was twelve. I went to UW-Madison, where I fell in love with my wife Holly. We have now been married thirty-two years, and have three young adult children: a married son and two daughters who are launching their professional careers.
Holly works full-time with me at Samaritan, and we have so much fun doing programs on marriage and family wellness together. We always begin the same way - by telling people we are both in our third marriages. After the room gets very quiet, we explain what we mean: our first marriage was the five years before we had children; our second marriage was the next twenty-two years of raising children; and our third marriage is the last five years of recreating our lives post-children. All of this is a way of saying the stories of our lives are constantly being written and re-written. In fact, problems tend to come up when we forget to author and edit our personal stories!
One more story - this one from my professional life. In May, 2008, I was offered the chance to become the founding Director of the Samaritan Family Wellness Center. This opportunity has been a chance to weave together all of the important aspects of my thirty-year career. Like the story of the Good Samaritan, we are here to offer a hand to anyone who has been beat up by life, and just as importantly we are also out in the community providing 'upstream', prevention-based programs to proactively strengthen individuals, families and organizations. The story of the Samaritan Family Wellness Center is still just beginning. Perhaps you feel the desire to be part of our story in some way, either as a person seeking help or as a person seeking to provide help. If so, I hope you will be in touch with us. We would love to hear your story.