I went today to my local mental health facility for a shot in my psyche. It’s like a shot in the arm, but there’s no vaccine for melancholy—the best you can hope for is a (self-esteem) booster.
A client stood at the check-in desk in front of me. He wore brown pants with black shoes and a gray jacket. He kept his knit hat on inside the building. Nothing about his appearance begged attention. I figured he’d gone about his life with little fanfare, a common man with simple tastes. The sun shined on him like everyone else. He’d get wet in the rain like any poor soul, but the weather didn’t concern him.
My initial impressions changed within seconds. He’d been to the center many times, it was clear. Staff members greeted him left and right. Another client walked by and smiled hello. He entertained the front desk ladies with a story about his dog. It must have been funny, but I didn’t hear the joke. I was more interested in his parting remarks, his signature goodbye.
“Thank you, Judy,” he said. “I will pray for you and your family. I love you, Judy.”
A minute later, to a therapist in a cast, navigating a knee scooter:
“I’m glad the surgery went well, Mary. I will pray for you and your family. I love you, Mary.”
He thanked a nurse. “I’ll pray for you and your family, Terrie. I love you, Terrie.”
Nobody batted an eye. Nothing felt inappropriate. At least here he felt safe, dealing with his struggles—whatever his condition or official diagnosis—on his own terms.
He’s praying for everyone and everyone’s family. He thanks you and he loves you. He’s refreshingly odd and disarmingly friendly—a poet of the everyday, a philosopher of kindness. Someone thinking of others beyond their awareness of him.