What have I learned over 35 years?

David Olsen, Ph.D, LCSW

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:

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!