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  • Writer's pictureSue Schleifer

Gratitude, Despair, Healing


At the beginning of 2023 I started a new practice. Each Sunday morning, I take a 3”x3” yellow post-it note and write something I am grateful for, or enjoyed doing/seeing/experiencing in the past week. I date it and fold the post-it and then place it in a basket on my desk.


My husband started this practice too at the beginning of the year. After a couple of months, he decided it wasn’t doing it for him. I’m pretty sure that he is grateful for many things in his life, he just chooses to express or notice them in different ways.


We each have our unique ways of being and doing and thinking. I love to play the game Wordle, but I don’t particularly enjoy Spelling Bee. My husband likes both and tries to get to “Queen Bee” most days even though he rarely succeeds.


The trick as a coach and as a tutor is to help my clients and students find what works for them. Sometimes it is trial and error. We try different strategies or practices to see what resonates. Sometimes I have a gut feeling about something and check it out with my client to see what she or he thinks. I’ve found that it is important to try something out for a long enough period of time to really know if it might be helpful or useful.


Sometimes discovering and pursuing our interests feels like magic. For me this happens when I sit down to write a scene for my playwriting class. I’ve been given a writing prompt. I think about it and when I feel ready, I sit down to write. Sometimes I have an idea in mind and notes and sometimes, under the pressure of time, I just sit down to a blank page. An hour later, I have a scene or two written. Sometimes it is pretty good, and sometimes it isn’t. The point is that we keep doing it, even when we don’t feel like it. We keep practicing and learning.


I’ve been thinking about a quote by Toni Morrison which my friend, Deborah, has as her email signature. “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”


This is challenging for me. I do sometimes feel despair and fear. I ask myself, what will I do with that despair and fear to help others and help heal our planet? What do you do?


Lagniappe


I recently read the book, Rough Sleepers, by Tracy Kidder and I highly recommend it if you want to learn more about the complexity of helping unhoused people. Kidder's book focuses on Boston and the work of Dr. Jim O'Connell. Here is a quote from the book that inspires me. “Jim had a knack for pre-admiration... something like the opposite of prejudice...pre-admiration for the people he doesn’t yet know. His presumption is, ‘Oh, I’m eventually going to like this person. I will probably find some reason over time to like them. I just happen not to know it yet.’”

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