By Fran Gafvert
Fran Gafvert is the department director for the Barbash Family Vital Support Center, a satellite location of Jewish Family Service.
When Beth Adam invited Jewish Family Service to co-sponsor Vic Strecher’s presentation, “On Purpose” and I was asked to interview him and write a blog, my first response was, “Perfect, this is right in my professional arena,” and then, “Oh no, another self-help book to read!”
I was right about the former and wrong about the latter.
“On Purpose,” a beautifully crafted graphic novel, (yes, it’s a comic book, but nothing like “Archie and Veronica”) is so rich in content and powerful in its relevance to each one of us, that I was moved to learn more about Vic and his work. I was also moved to do a little homework of my own in finding and refining my purpose in life. Vic makes that easy with an app you can access on computer or smartphone, and track your progress in purposeful activity.
I was more than touched by the impetus behind Vic writing this graphic novel and app. He was devastated by the loss of his youngest daughter, Julia, who died at age 20 after her struggle with 2 heart transplants during her short life. I was moved by his ability to see a life purpose after such a loss. I also was experiencing the loss that occurred in the past year of both my father and my young brother-in-law, just 60 years old. A mild depression had settled in with me and I found myself pushing hard to muster my usual energy and enthusiasm from time to time. A little homework on visioning my purpose after such losses seemed like a good idea.
Vic’s work encourages people in the medical and helping fields like my field of social work, to help those they serve remove their walls of defensiveness about their health and to have their own inner reasons to seek healthy behaviors. This is in contrast to “encouraging” people to be healthy by feeding them negative messages or admonishing them to quit smoking, drinking, demanding they exercise so they don’t get sick. He helps people with a path to fulfilling their purpose, which may then take them forward on a healthy track with positive emotion. All of this is presented in such an engaging manner with colorful, humorous characters intermingled with iconic philosophers that teach his method. We can act on it with immediacy using simple devices like an app on your phone or computer.
In working with vulnerable adults at Jewish Family Service, many times we see people in crisis and the focus is on immediate intervention, providing food or utility or rent assistance, and guidance towards a solution to ameliorate the problem. What Vic helped me remember is what it feels like to take the time to think about what we value; family, friends, generosity, humor, honesty, and to think about how we want to enact our own values in our lives. He reminded me how powerful an exercise this is to share with our clients, especially our families experiencing challenges and difficulties in their lives.
When the immediate crisis has resolved and we are ready to move on, there is self-empowerment in dreaming bigger, to envision what we really want. If I can help someone who is troubled in a way that they feel uplifted and empowered, then I have lived for my purpose that day. That’s what counts for me. Vic’s graphic novel now sits on my coffee table with a purpose. I plan to get another copy for the Jewish Family Service lobby.