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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Helper and Guide


Through stories, we are given the opportunity to search deeper into an understanding of what we make of our own stories, and of this world in which we live every day. What do we notice and why? What does that say about us, or others? How do we think about the stories of others, and about our own stories?
-- Robert Coles, Handing One Another Along: Literature and Social Reflection


Dr. Robert Coles is an interesting intersection between Lisa and myself that predates our identities as parents of BFFs. A medical doctor and psychiatrist, Coles became interested in how children in crisis made sense of their experiences, and went on to write many award-winning books about the moral and spiritual lives of children. Much of this has concerned the storytelling that children do. As a professor of Social Ethics at Harvard, (he’s on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, too!) he has guided his students into an examination of literature and art, of how narrative informs our own experience and helps us make meaning.


photo courtesy GeekPhilosopher
Over the course of our professional careers, Lisa and I have both sought advice in Dr. Coles’ work. As a child/family therapist (Lisa) and children’s book author (me), we both have tried to understand (for different reasons) how children learn to be Good and Strong, how they make meaning for their lives. By “Good” I mean identifying what is healthy and productive for self and community; by “Strong” I mean able to set and meet goals for that Good. In my work life and personal life I have been concerned with identifying what is good, and with shaping stories that bring that to vivid life with characters who are strong or become strong (this usually requires courage, fyi!). In Lisa’s work and personal life she has been concerned with identifying what helps families through crisis, highlighting for families what already is good and offering tools for strengthening that within the family. We, as professionals, need courage for this work, so that we may offer courage to the children we serve.

We are fortunate to have the work of teachers such as Dr. Coles to turn to. In our life stories we all have helpers and guides; Dr. Coles is one that both of us have met on our journeys.




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