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Front Page » October 7, 2003 » Opinion » People need people
Published 4,381 days ago

People need people

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A friend of mine shared a couple pages from one of his textbooks recently that made a whole lot of sense and reminded me of the importance of people working and functioning together.

It took me back immediately to the theme I used in college for the yearbook. I served as editor and took portions of the old Barbara Streisand's song, "People who need people are the luckiest people."

The piece, written by Irvin Yalom in the theory and proactive of group psychotherapy talked about the Hasidic story of a rabbi who had a conversation with the Lord about heaven and hell. According to the story the Lord told the rabbi that he would show him hell and as they entered the room there was a group of famished, desperate people sitting around a large, round table. In the center of the table was an enormous pot of stew, more than enough for everyone. The smell of the stew was delicious and made the rabbi's mouth water. Yet no one ate. Each of the people at the table held a very long-handled spoon, long enough to reach the pot and scoop up a spoonful of stew, but too long to get the food into one's mouth. The rabbi saw that their suffering was terrible and bowed his head in compassion.

Next the Lord took the rabbi to heaven and as they entered the room there was an identical scene with a stew pot steaming on a large table. Yet there was gaiety in the air and everyone appeared well nourished, plump and exuberant. The rabbi could not understand and looked at the Lord. "It is simple, said the Lord, "but it requires a certain skill. "You see, the people in this room have learned to feed each other,"

I like this story a lot and really believe that in life it takes the entire family or the entire community or the entire workplace to function and live together to be happy or to be well nourished.

I heard a report on television last week that talked about the happiest nation in the world was Nigeria in Africa. Apparently a survey interviewed thousands of people in every country and found that the happiest people were not the richest. (The average annual income in Nigeria is only $800 a year), but those that live, work and play together.

The United States ranked 16th in the survey and it has an average annual income of over $35,000. I often get the idea in America that there is only so much love, happiness or riches to go around and the thinking goes that if someone else has those things it means that much less for me.

Personally I have found its just the opposite. The more I share, the more I receive.

It is a proven fact that patients who see counselors or therapists receive through giving, not only as part of the reciprocal giving-receiving sequence, but also from the intrinsic art of giving. Prior to treatment patients almost always feel they have a deep sense of having nothing of value to offer others. They have long considered themselves as burdens and the experience of finding that they can be of importance to others is refreshing and boosts their self-esteem.

Families who raise their children to be supportive by offering their siblings and friends reassurance, suggestions, or insight, often grow up much healthier and balanced.

A good example in our society today is the organization Alcoholics Anonymous, where people share their experience, strength and hope with each other so the entire group can find happiness and recover from addictions and problems. A.A.has been called the miracle program of the 20th century with millions of people finding a new sense of freedom from the problems of life by simply showing up and sharing their love and hope with each other.

It really does take the whole family, whole community or the whole workplace to make a healthy unit. Together, not alone, we can find fulfillment and happiness.

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October 7, 2003
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