Handle with Exquisite Care

This morning I am reflecting on the deep care and “restraint” that is required if we are to serve vulnerable people well. Many times, those of us trying to assist others often have to take a deep breath and wait.  At other times, we need a sense of urgency to drive fast and clear action in the lives of others. This is often a practical struggle, and a moral one as well. Young people in particular seem to challenge our abilities to sit tight sometimes, and at other times, act with decisiveness.

I have a young man in his early 20’s I am holding in my mind and my heart this morning.  At one point in his life, those who loved him were deeply concerned about his prospects in life – many labels and diagnoses began to accumulate, and many services and supports as well, beginning in the 4th grade and extending through his high school years. At the age of about 15, he decided that medication was not for him, and despite the dire predictions of those around him, especially professionals, he struggled though with the mostly expected high and lows of “teenager-hood.” Then, things went very badly, and his life seemed to come crashing down around his ears. Some of the most dreaded and fearful labels were proposed – things like borderline personality disorder, major depression with suicidal ideation, mood disorder. Those of us around him were unsure how to support him, uncertain of his future, and eager for him to receive what the mental health system was freely offering – counseling, medication (lots of it), programs, a case manager, and a host of services. As is one of his most wonderful trait, he decided to stand up and politely decline our offers.  No, but thanks. We stand by, often wringing our hands, but have been willing to wait, support, offer practical help, and do what is necessary to keep him in everyday life. “Not doing” takes great strength, and may be the greatest service he ever received from the professional mental health system. At the same time, it is really tough to do.

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