Archive for December, 2015

A New Year: Transformation Possible, Ask James The “Caveman”!

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

A new year beckons – a new beginning.  Beginnings offer optimism and hope of what might be possible.  Change invites reflection and a path toward significant change, perhaps even transformation.

Over the years my life has been dedicated to positive change, transformation, once as a priest, in academia, and now as a psychotherapist.  I have had the privilege of working with people committed to growth in themselves and in others.  I would like to share one very special experience of transformation with you.

The boy/man is James Hobson – he thinks that might be his name.  He is not sure if that is his real name because he does not know his biological parents; there is no birth certificate.  He has chosen Christmas day to be his birthday, for the apparent reason of being transformed by a faith inspired community. By the time he was fifteen he had been placed in thirty two foster homes, attended twenty two schools, and was homeless by the age of fifteen.

James was around twenty when I met him in the west side ghetto of Chicago.  He was the leader of a three thousand member gang named the Vice Lords.  He had been arrested sixty six times for gang activity.  He was known as “Caveman”.

I was there as a volunteer in the Cabrini project begun by Rev. Charles La Verde.  He was concerned about the violence and death present in the community and began this outreach effort to touch and transform their lives.  James came to Cabrini to play pool.  He was greeted by a group of caring people who treated him with respect and invited him to look at another way to live.  Over the period of three months James experienced a loving “family” who truly cared about him.  He began to change.

The impact of the spirit of the Cabrini volunteers opened new doors for James.  He clearly needed to escape his surroundings.  Military service was an option.  He was rejected by all four branches.  Finally, after many petitions and interventions by significant individuals, James was admitted into the Army.  In the course of his military stint he earned two bronze stars, three presidential commendations, and six other medals.  He attained the rank of sergeant.

Upon his return to Chicago, James was given the key to the city by Mayor Daley and a college scholarship.  James wanted to give something back to the community and has for many years worked through the parks and recreation department to reach gang members.  Currently, he is Director of the largest park district in Chicago.  He tirelessly reaches out to the estranged impoverished youth, in whom he can readily see himself.  A few  years ago the cover story for the Chicago Tribune’s Sunday magazine carried an eight page story about James.

A few years ago a banquet honoring James was held in Chicago.  Father LaVerde, at this time was trying to start another Cabrini project in the south side ghetto, hoped that the youth of his community would listen to someone who had “been there”. (The night before a thirteen-year-old boy was killed near the church for crossing the street into the Latin Kings’ turf.)  A few of us former volunteers came for a reunion with James and with each other.  James told his story.  Tears of joy and love were shed.  Embraces filled the room.  The evolving story of transformation had been explained.  A new man stood on stage, grateful and proud, yet tearful from the emotional damage experienced in his childhood.  I have been blessed to have been a part of this “new beginning” of James.  He is my friend.

There are other James’ out there – people of incredible potential.  May you and I see them, hear them, be with them – love them  – be an agent of transformation! New beginnings are possible!

Happy New Year! Make it a special year. You deserve that!


“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates


The Holidays Beckon Us Anew To Be “Heart Healers”!

Friday, December 18th, 2015

A former patient recently took me off guard by saying, “John, you are a heart healer.”  I thanked the person. I had not been called that before.  The expression has stayed with me and caused me to reflect on the process of heart healing.

There are many broken hearts in our community, as there are in any other community.  Hearts are broken by many people and circumstances. Husbands and wives, parents, children, siblings, extended family members, lovers, friends, co-workers, etal are capable of breaking hearts.  Death, divorce, break ups, arguments, natural disasters, illness etc… also contribute to hearts being broken. I would guess that most of us can both identify with having a heart broken along the way, as well as seeing others in that position now.

In the twelve years that I have lived in the Lake Oconee area I have had the privilege of working with clergy, various health professionals, law enforcement personnel, journalists, and caring friends for the benefit of our community – particularly people with broken lives, broken homes, broken hearts.  As I look around I am constantly seeing men and women of our community reach out and give of their time, talents, and dollars to those in need. Often in our local newspapers we see pictures and stories of people giving service to those in need. Some examples would be the wonderful volunteers who are involved with the Senior Center, Circle of Love, the Dreamers, Habitat for Humanity, the Humane Society – and many others.

My purpose in writing this is to say thank you to those who have privileged me while I try in my humble way to assist in heart healing through my articles. And thanks to all you other heart healers who reach out with a generous and loving heart. If you are a “Heart Healer”, keep it up.  If you have not been attuned to the needs and opportunities beckoning, please join in.  Together all of us can assist in the healing of wounded hearts in our community.

The holidays are an emotional time.  Many of us are particularly blessed and our hearts are filled with love.  Others are experiencing intense pain during this time.  For all who celebrate Christmas in the spiritual sense, may we all learn from the person whose ministry we are called to emulate.  Be a “heart healer” during this special time and may it carry forth and continue to be a part of your essence.

Merry Christmas!

Holidays And Values: What Is Your Parental Message To Your Kids?

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

Most of our values, manners, and style are learned from our parents at an early age.  Holidays and birthdays are impactful.  Christmas and Hannukkah are particularly potent.  Parental behavior, modeling, tells a child what a holiday is all about by imprinting a certain way of being in celebration.   This affects a child all through life unless s/he consciously chooses a different modus operandi later in life.

A colleague of mine, Dr. Rick Blue, has written on this topic.  He counsels parents to be aware of buying an abundance of gifts for children.  He says this “helps kids feel entitled to always get what they want.  Before you know it you have the spoiled child syndrome.”  This spoiled child is not prepared for the “real world”. Mental toughness and resiliency are needed for the arduous journey of life.  Dr. Blue continues:“This sense of entitlement and self-centeredness leads to problems with giving and sharing later in life.  The narcissistic personality forms in early childhood when kids learn they’re special and have their needsmet whenever they want.”

Dr. Blue suggests the importance of teaching kids the joy of giving, of service to others.  Opportunities for such service would include volunteering at shelters, hospitals, and animal clinics.  Parents certainly can come up with other ways of giving and sharing.

To change the style of holiday celebrations involves knowing your values and having the courage to impart them.  Such a change may face challenges of being ridiculed or rejected.  Kids may argue and conflict may result.  Can you handle your children’s disappointment, anger, rejection?  Some parents have such strong needs to always be liked by their kids that they do not teach and stand up for the values that ultimately they wish the kids would have. Only strong parents who are sure of their values and committed to develop this attribute in their children can take on such a challenge.

What will you choose to do during these holidays?  May you make the right choice for you and your family; one that truly represents your spirit and values at this unique time of the year.  Happy Holiday!


“The unexamined life is not worth living”       Socrates


“It’s Too Expensive, I’ll Settle For Mediocrity” : Your Choice?

Friday, December 4th, 2015

Choice involves selecting among alternatives. It means that you are not locked into one option. Hooray for choices! So, what choices are on your plate as you examine various opportunities and options in your life?

Life is about choices we make over time as we surf the oceanic waves, riding the tides of our challenging personal and professional challenges. You choose where you live, what you do for a career, who you choose to marry, what you spend your money on … . This writing will focus on your spending choices, particularly in the area of good health – physical and mental. The “examined life” makes wise choices.

I am continually amazed at some of the irrational choices people make in this area. One area of choice is what you put into your body to nourish your physical and mental well being. Do you buy the cheapest in order to save money at the expense of good health?  It may be wise to check your grocery list.  When you eat out where do you go and what do you eat? Probably worth a look.

Do you take food supplements to cover what your diet does not provide for? Most people need quality supplements to “cover their bases” for optimal physical and mental functioning. Personally, I eat a well rounded nutritious diet – and I partake in quality supplements. I chose over the counter vitamins  until I read the research and found out what a difference there is in the quality of supplements. I now take a very highly rated mail order supplement which is a bit more expensive, but well worth it.  I’m not “settling” anymore!

The area of counseling and therapy is another aberrational choice in my estimation. I continually witness individuals choosing a mediocre professional because they were cheaper. The old adage, “you get what you pay for” is alive and well with such options. I continually hear from clients/patients that they got very little from their previous practitioner and welcome a different approach that goes deeper and provides a definitive plan for reaching success.

The intent of this writing is not to belittle “mediocre” products and practitioners but to challenge you, Respected Reader, to examine your needs and your priorities. Upon doing that decide what quality choice you want to make. Wisdom invites you to go for the best available that you can afford, perhaps with a budget adjustment (i.e. less going out for dinner).

Mediocrity begets mediocrity. Is that how you see yourself, your loved ones, with the choices you make in such vital areas of your life? Personally, my priorities are my health, my wife and kids, and caring for them with wise choices relative to income production and expenditures. These priorities deserve the best and are going to get them. No settling here!! How about you?

“The unexamined life is not worth living”  Socrates