What have I learned over 35 years?
I began the Samaritan Center 35 years ago in the basement of a church in Schenectady with an old Apple computer, a lot of hope, and my fair share of anxiety. I’d just moved my young family from a brief stint in Texas where I'd started a center, after spending all of my life in NJ. When my wife and I arrived in Schenectady, we had a preschooler and a first grader. Those “kids” are now mature adults, well established in their own careers, and we now have grandchildren about the same age as my kids were when we arrived.
Over the last 35 years, the center’s growth has been explosive while my world and the world around me changed exponentially. My wife and I have lost all four of our parents; most recently, Cheryl’s mother died in January of this year. We now face the sobering reality that we are the “last generation”. My wife retired after a long career as a school counselor in Schenectady city schools. We have experienced family tragedies with our extended families, and we have watched good friends die, including our original gifted clinical director of the center and close friend, Michael Quinn. I have watched several original sacrificial board members retire and die, as well as some clergy I have admired, and I have watched staff come and go. I’m reminded of the words of Bruce Springstein “first you are here and then you are gone”. (My wife and I are from NJ so of course he is our patron saint!) Reflecting on 35 years is sobering, and I can no longer claim to be middle aged, especially when I’m now referred to as “grampy”!
Over 35 years, despite staggering change, I have learned that some things are stable and reliably the same. At the risk of sounding like an old timer, permit me to share some of what I have learned:
- No matter how the world changes, we long for the constancy of stable, committed relationships. At the end of the day, in the midst of stress, change, and even COVID, we long to come home to the security of strong, loving relationships. As a marriage and family therapist, I know how difficult it is to build those types of strong relationships, and the challenges they present. I feel honored to be part of helping build those types of relationships and to work with gifted colleagues committed to the same thing.
- I know all parents want the best for their children, and are full of anxiety as they long to provide better lives for their kids than they have had. I know the guilt, the stress, the challenges of trying to launch children, and again am grateful that Samaritan can be part of that.
- I know the longing to change history: trust me, my wife and I know the anxiety of wanting to change history! Patterns are difficult to break. Family therapists talk about “multigenerational transmission”, and I sit every day with couples and families who hope to break those patterns and provide a better world for their children.
- I know that we all have a need for long term supportive connections. I have personally come to appreciate the value of strong long-term friendships, and sharing life and meaning with the significant others in my life. Some of these relationships have been with our amazing board members who have worked sacrificially to ensure the future of the center, and I am beyond grateful for their support and friendship.
- I also know that, in the end, most people want to find meaning in the midst of the existential angst of life. They want answers to the powerful questions about the purpose of their lives and how to live meaningful lives, as opposed to being tranquilized by the trivial (Kierkegaard). Part of Samaritan’s mission is to connect body, mind and spirit in the midst of rebuilding relationships and know that spiritual renewal is part of that equation. In the end, being part of something greater, something transcendent, provides both an escape from our narcissistic culture, as well as meaning and commitment to leaving the world a better place.
These 35 years have gone by quickly, but the transformation of lives, marriages, and families goes on generationally.
Thank you for your commitment to being part of the next chapter of Samaritan’s history!