A break-through via Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln by Charles Alfred Barry


I met her for the first time on the psychiatric ward.  I was there to complete a psychological evaluation. I had my pen in hand, my hospital badge, and my folder.  She was depressed. She looked at me pensively.  I introduced myself. She was clearly not doing well. Her grooming and hygiene was poor.  She had attempted suicide-that was what got her admitted to the unit. She didn’t say anything. I figured that this assignment was not going to go well-if at all.  Then she noticed what I had forgotten- I carried with me always-a picture of Abraham Lincoln on the cover of my folder. I had it there for years-it was part of what I carry on my job-like carrying a pencil. She then spoke her first words with me: “That’s Abraham Lincoln, I love him!”  I smiled, as I realized I had not noticed the picture. “Yes, I said-I love him too.” We found a connection. All my skills and knowledge- my training and degrees-didn’t mean much at that moment.  She didn’t care about that. She cared about Lincoln.  That was the “break-through.” The evaluation proceeded and was completed.

The next day I went up to the psychiatric unit.  I had a small gift for her-a book on Abraham Lincoln.  She had all the joy in her face as a child on Christmas morning. It wasn’t a technique I learned in graduate school.  It was called being “kind” to another human being. She was depressed, so I thought I’d do a “little something” to cheer her up. I asked her why she loved Lincoln so much. She said that he had risen above his depression to become what he was.  I saw that Lincoln was giving her hope. Perhaps all the therapy in the world would not be so effective…


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