Joe was a clinician at a large outpatient treatment center where I worked for nearly 10 years. He was a quiet, super-intense New Yorker who stood out among a staff of mellow left coasters. He was tough, but the clients knew he cared. He was truly a unique human being.
One day, Joe said something that has stayed with me for a dozen years or so. He said, “We’re all part of a circle, and we’re all standing somewhere on that circle.”
I’m not trying to get all new age-y on you, but that simple statement totally changed the way I look at other people. I’m a kinder person now – or at least I’m trying.
Nobody is better. Nobody is worse. When it comes right down to it, it doesn’t matter if you’re a guy living under a bridge on Burnside Street in Portland, a member of the one percent, or the Queen of England — or somewhere in the middle with the rest of us.
It’s not us and them. There’s no line in the sand. It’s just us, and we’re all standing somewhere on that circle. We’re all worthy. We all struggle.
It’s probably been fifteen years or so since I saw Joe, but I learned last week that he died from an overdose of pain meds awhile back. His family is pretty sure it was intentional.
I think of the hundreds of people that Joe managed to reach and the lives he changed – often when nobody else could.His death is a great loss to Portland’s treatment community.
What’s your message? What’s your unique experience? What do you say to people who are stuck in fear and pain and searching for answers? How will they know you’re different than the treatment center down the road, across town, or in the next state?
How will they know how much you can help if you don’t tell them?