I remember watching a movie which depicted a long train chugging up a mountain side. As the coal-burning locomotive slowly made its way up the steep mountain, it released a large amount of black smoke, but when the engine went down the mountain, it released a smaller amount of smoke. During life, each of us will have mountains (struggles) to climb. It is during these times that we will be required to put forth more effort to reach the top. Once the top is reached, the view can be breathtaking and the journey will continue and may even contain a descent, which we can “coast” down without nearly as much effort.
We don’t require coal burning to make the climb, however, we do require self-esteem. During the uphill climbs (trials), we will be benefited by self-esteem, while descending (good moments in life), we may not be as dependent upon self-esteem. As coal was used to increase the power of the locomotive, we too have sources to increase our self–esteem. Some sources include, but are not limited to, good physical and emotional health, financial resources, family, and friends.
For some, their self-esteem may seem to come easily and they may make the climb look like it does not require much effort. There are some, however, who are going through trials who don’t feel they have self–esteem. Most likely, at some point along the way, this person will feel incapable of reaching the summit and may give up. It is at these moments, this person will need help. Once the climb up the mountain starts, a person’s self–esteem will be challenged. Their motivation may become bleak. They may feel their effort is worthless and they will start to have self–doubt. During this process they may turn to others. Those around them may not be able to help or they may choose not to help. The goal may appear to the person who is climbing to be unachievable. As sadness replaces their motivation, they may feel resentment, sadness, isolation, depression and anxiety. It is at this time, when life may appear to be overwhelming and the goal unreachable, that someone will see their need for help.
I imagine most of us have read/heard the book, The Little Engine That Could. There are many characters in the story: five engines, toy animals, and dolls. Each has some influence on the broken engine. Some influences were positive and some were negative. Similarly, each of us plays a character in someone else’s story, whether positive or negative. For example, someone may be struggling to earn good grades, become a better athlete, be accepted by peers or receive recognition at work. It may be a friend who will influence the struggling person or it may be a school counselor, teacher, principle or parent. If more help is required, there are professionals such as therapists, doctors or clergy members who. With help, the summit can and will be reached, self–esteem will return, and the person may say as The Little Engine Who Could, “I thought I could, I thought I could”.
Throughout life, each of us will experience different roles in the story. We may be the broken engine, the friends of the broken engine, the three negative engines or each of us could choose to be a positive influence like The Little Engine Who Could. I encourage everyone to be a positive influence. Like The Little Who Could, there are examples of people who’ve made difficult climbs. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.” Keep dreaming. Keep climbing. You can achieve!
This article was written by Garry Holbrook, LCSW and a member of the Sanpete Behavioral Health Community Network. The Network is comprised of community members who try to find resources for Sanpete’s adult community for their mental health needs. The Network has focused on services and resources for people who are unfunded or under-insured with behavioral therapy, medication management and pharmaceutical assistance for psychotropic medications. We have also created a committee called Sanpete CARES which stands for Child Adolescent Resources Enrichment and Services to help with new services for our Sanpete Child and Adolescent population. They are working closely with agencies and our school districts to make our community and schools safer. Over the next year, we will be sending out additional articles from other Sanpete Behavioral Health Community Network members. If you would like more information about services or how you can help, please call 435-851-5206.