One Positive Thing

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Along with the violets, her strength was her faith. “She had previously been quite active in her local church, but since her confinement to a wheelchair she attended church only on Sundays,” O’Hanlon reports. “Because there was no wheelchair access to the church, she hired her handyman to give her a ride to church and lift her into the building after services had started, so she wouldn’t disrupt the flow of foot traffic into the church. She also left before services had ended, again so she wouldn’t block traffic.”

Erickson could see that religion was the most important thing to her, and that she cared about people and was great with the flowers. He told her that her problem was that she “was not being a good Christian.”  “I go to church every Sunday,” she objected. “Do you know how hard that is for me?”

“That’s true,” Erickson replied, “but you’ve got money, you’ve got this greenhouse and a wonderful green thumb, and you’re keeping it all to yourself.”

He advised her to work from the church newsletter, and she agreed. Every time there was a birth, wedding, graduation, or other happy or sad event, she hired her handyman to drive her and give African violets, condolences or congratulations to the people there.

One positive thing makes a big difference. When she died ten years later, the local paper carried a large headline that read “African Violet Queen of Milwaukee Dies, Mourned by Thousands.” She had  become famous for her trademark flowers and her charitable work with people in the community.

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5 Responses to One Positive Thing

  1. It amazing that while sitting outside our building I encounter many people with issues who wish to discuss these issues carefully. For some reason the cosmos wants me to understand these issues as my own, and listen carefully to my responses.

  2. Amy Herskowitz says:

    Thank you for sharing these stories, David! I work in mental health as well, although on the government program/policy side of things and one of the best things to happen to mental health in the province of Ontario has been the use of a new standardized tool to help both clinician and client work toward the CLIENT’S expressed goals. Before, we used to have such a paternalistic way of viewing clients with mental illness and advocating for their “recovery” – only as clinicians and practitioners perceived it. Now, we have a tool that allows the clients themselves to tell us what elements in their life they are interested in improving: relationships, housing, vocational skills, activities of daily living, and the clinician works as a team-member with the client rather than trying to “enforce compliance” from him/her. It’s such a simple thing but a crucial shift in understanding what really matters to people who struggle with mental illness.

    Thanks again for sharing these.

  3. cesar says:

    Thanks, David for your stories and the class you taught in spring. It was inspiring. On top of doing 200 push-ups, I’m now getting my writing published and training for a marathon.

  4. Will Fudeman says:

    Thanks much for these, David! It’s important to share stories of people recovering from mental illness by finding ways to live more satisfying lives. This gives hope and a creative perspective to many who might otherwise buy into the pharmaceutical/medical inadequate band-aid approach to ‘treatment’.

  5. Rose Martine says:

    I want to express my appreciation to the writer just for bailing me out of this type of setting. After looking through the world wide web and getting views that were not beneficial, I assumed my entire life was well over. Existing without the presence of solutions to the difficulties you have solved all through your entire write-up is a crucial case, and ones that might have negatively damaged my entire career if I hadn’t come across your blog

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