My great niece posted those words on her Facebook page. Intrigued, I searched for the quote and discovered the complete quote, which is: “Have a good day on purpose, then elevate your efforts towards other and enjoy a great day.” Ms. Toni Jenkins, author of a book titled Been Through It All, is credited with the quote. Jenkins’ book describes her difficult upbringing in a culture of drugs and abuse and her ultimate survival.
I thought of Abraham Lincoln’s statement that “People are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be,” quite surprising given his propensity for depression. His law partner gave the description that “His melancholy dripped from him as he walked.” His best friend once had to remove razors and any other means of self-harm. Another time neighbors stood suicide watch due to his talk of self-destruction. Certainly he had the makings of depression. At age nine he helped carve his mother’s casket. His sister died at age 21. He lost two young sons. He faced many other challenges as well.
In an age when suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-24 year olds, and every day approximately 132 people die by suicide, these two quotes would seem to have a common theme of hope. Life is possible even in the face of the most difficult of circumstances. Lincoln is still regarded as a great man and president. Jenkins is inspiring others to overcome their own obstacles.
This is not to minimize how painful life can be nor how appealing it might be to someone to be free of the pain. In the course of my career as a therapist, I had two people who died by suicide. One was a young man, who at 18 was presented with a list from his mother of everything she had done and spent on his behalf, with the expectation that he pay her in full. His sense of worthlessness was pervasive and no matter what safeguards we tried to put in place, his intention was to be released from what had been a miserable life. The other was a widow with a lot of health problems, whose primary reason she felt to keep going was for her pet bird. When she made arrangements for the bird, I feared she was going to soon seek the opportunity. She actually was in the emergency room for an overdose when she found meds unmonitored and took all of them. One must have great empathy for the immensity of the burdens some carry.
On the other hand, a woman I had been seeing in therapy called me one day to say she had been to her lawyer, written her will and made arrangements for care for her seven year-old daughter. She said she was on her way to kill herself and wanted to tell me goodbye. In a voice I did not even recognize as my own, I heard myself say “No! You will come directly to my office immediately.” Thankfully she did as this was before the era when there were crisis intervention teams and more resources for suicidal people. She rallied and was able to recover her functioning.
It is not our job to be “saviors.” But we can be companions on the journey. As Ram Dass said “We’re all just walking each other home.”
May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate
Hope’s Café Bonus: We are urged to be more cautious about terminology when talking about suicide. “Commit suicide” hearkens to the time when this was considered sinful, in the category of “committing adultery” or “committing a crime.” Journalists are urged not to sensationalize reporting of suicides as that has the result of affecting vulnerable people inclined to self-harm.
One thought on “Have a Good Day on Purpose”
Thank-you, Kate. Besides having “a good day on purpose,” I particularly appreciate the reminder to “have great empathy for the immensity of the burdens some carry.” Have a good day on purpose!
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