Today it was a woman whom I’ve only met a couple times. Yesterday it was a man with whom I’ve spent many hours. Each gave me something quite wonderful, gifts that differed only in degree of mutual acquaintance, rather than in any kind of emotional depth.
Each gave me the gift of their now seeing better days.
As a psychiatrist, my job is to be willing to listen to the stories of fear, of sadness, of rage, to do what I can to show a fellow human being that a another fellow human being is willing to try to understand—and in an imperfect way, experience—what he can.
Fortunately, though, my job is not all fear, sadness, and rage.
Not only do combat veterans ask me to experience the darkness of War itself, many also invite me to experience the light of what Life can become after War, after people have been willing to listen to them, wiling to take the risks of knowing what civilians don’t want to know, yet must know if the combat veterans are to have any hope of finding that light.
They invite me to share with them the joy—not unbridled, certainly, but also not tenuous—of their moving into the world a bit wiser, a bit more willing to understand that there are indeed so many things not worth fighting about.
They invite me to experience that the world can again feel good, for meaningful periods of time, even after their having learned that the world can rapidly become very, very not-good.
Funny. Both persons thanked me for what they perceived as my having given them a gift. And true, in a way that I could, I gave them a gift of my knowledge, of myself.
Yet what I have received in return. To both, I can only say: for your service, for your willingness never to give up upon yourselves and upon those whom you love, thank you.
Here’s to even better days.