An essay by Brian McLaughlin, Advocate
With every passing year, I have become more a creature of habit. One such habit taught me a lesson that I thought I had learned but somehow had forgotten. Specifically, you never really know what the other guy is going through and further, the world is not all about me.
Each morning during the week I stop at the corner gas station to overpay for three bottles of diet Coca-Cola. I often engage the cashier in some cheery conversation. That is until Mary started working the counter in those wee hours when I arrive.
I would stop and pick up my three bottles - never one, never two, never four, but three bottles. And each morning I would attempt to engage Mary in some polite banter, mostly about the weather. To my dismay, she never said a word but only handed me my change.
Mary seemed immune to what I believed to be my considerable charms. Still, every morning I would attempt to engage her in polite conversation. This went on for months. Finally, this morning Mary spoke to me. As she did, my heart melted. As it turns out, Mary had a hearing impairment that also affected her speech.
For weeks now, I was harboring hard feelings toward Mary, as if the world was all about me. Now I see Mary as a young lady still shy about how her verbal communication would be received. This, for a time, was invisible to me. I never once stopped to consider that the world in this case was about Mary.
I was particularly ashamed as, for most of my life, I have been working with and for persons with serious mental illness. And, for much of that time I have counted myself as one of them. I thought that I had long ago learned that often the other guy’s struggles in life are for the most part, invisible. And further, for better or worse, the world is not all about me.
So, thank you Mary for teaching this wise old man a lesson. A lesson learned long ago but obviously in desperate need of repeating. You never really know what the other guy is going through and, as much as I would like it to be, sometimes the world is not all about me.
Respectfully Submitted for Your Consideration,
Brian Patrick McLaughlin MS/CPS
MH Consumer Advocate
Erie County, PA.
© 2016 Mental Health Association of Northwestern PA