It’s surprising…

Extreme circumstances may bring out the best or the worst in us, or a mixture. I’d prefer to focus on variations on the best, or at least the neutral, the daily news inundating us with more than enough of the negative.

51 years ago, July 20, 1969, was not just the Moon landing but the day I arrived in Alaska – a day I’d been waiting for since I was 3 (no, I don’t know why). After 4 weeks of dubious training at the U. in Fairbanks, Harry Faulkner’s chartered float plane dropped me at the nearly deserted Yupik village of Little Russian Mission on the Kuskokuim River in western Alaska.*

My instructions? Build a cabin to get through the winter, help the village council wade through the implications of pending Land Claims Settlement legislation, and drum up support for it with the area’s Village Council Presidents’ Association.

I built a cabin with lumber from a mobile sawmill across the river, a hammer, saw, shovel and keg of 16p nails and not much else. No, I had never built anything more complicated than a bird house before that, though I claimed otherwise to get the assignment.

I rose to the occasion and opportunity and had, perhaps, one of the most interesting and educational years of my life. I think back to it whenever I am in difficult circumstances and with a view as to what I can get out of the conditions, not how to avoid them. I am sometimes successful in this approach.

To me, with the Covid19 virus, an immobile leg, social upheaval such as I haven’t seen since the 1960’s, and the country torn apart by greed, racism, sexism and political corruption – well, what can I do? And what can I not do?

For me, I can take care of myself (work on my leg’s recovery) and others (stay home and calm). I can continue to see a few clients who also seeing this as a one-time opportunity to take care of themselves and others by focusing on a nagging problem.

Then there’s the “not to do” list: don’t contribute to the social media craziness. Don’t give money to politicians (or cults, fanatics, or rabble rousers). Avoid media where I don’t control the input into my brain meaning talk radio/cable TV, etc. The “Stay Calm & Carry On” still works for me.

For you? Well, I don’t know you well enough to say – but we could talk about it. Every week I spend some time with former clients who’ve come to trust us when it comes to other personal, family and social questions. You have the time, I imagine. So do we.

*For more detail, see “VISTA Alaska – The Little Russian Mission Letter, 1969-1970)”

This is Newsletter #617

It’s hard to believe that I have kicked out 617 of these, neither missing a week nor recycling an older issue. I’ve had occasional, and much appreciated, help from readers who have sent in comments on the articles, our work with them, and questions.

But things have changed for all of us and so I invite (implore?) you to help me out by sending a few questions which reflect your difficulties in the hopefully unique times.

I am quite certain that I am missing topics of concern to you and would prefer to respond rather than grope around hoping to hit on a topic that’s new to me or to Dr. Barnes and me.

So please: HELP!


And remember the old teachers’ dictum – there are no dumb questions, and whatever you’re wondering about is shared by 100 others too timid to ask