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Rural practice forum.

Paul Helland is a masters prepared social worker currently working with the Red River Valley Hospice program. His organization has a slogan stating "Hospice Care: Comfort and Compassion When It's Needed Most". Paul is someone well versed in this area, both from a giving and receiving perspective. He is a former farmer and a Disaster Outreach worker (hired through FEMA in the 1997 Grand Forks, ND flood) who was asked during the winter and spring of 1997-98 if he would speak at four rural forums to offer support to disaster victims dealing with the flood, the farm crisis or both. He was asked if he would share his thoughts on dealing with life's challenges, having already endured the loss of the family farm and now his home in Grand Forks was inundated by the floodwaters of the Red River. This is an edited version of what Paul had to say.

For most of us, the one thing we usually have control over is our perception, meaning how we interpret events, and how we "do" or "do not" allow those events to intellectually and/or emotionally affect us. So, how do we face challenges bravely? Ralph Waldo Emerson said that, "The wise man in a storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear. For it is the storm within which endangers him, not the storm without."

Some of the mental "tools" I have used to dig through life's messes and build up new hope have been:

Tool No.1. "My children"! They give me strength, stimulation, and continuing education. Usually, when one door closes, another door opens. I lost the farm, but God gave me children.

Tool No.2. "History and geography"! Daily, I have to remind myself not to be overly negative about my current situation in life. I use history and geography to overcome this. Historically, life has been hard. I felt guilty and incompetent when we were losing the "family farm!" I felt bad because we were losing what my father had worked so hard for. Then, I turned that fact around. My dad had worked hard. In fact, my dad had a harder life than I do! Life is not easy and life's been hard for a long time. It doesn't matter what generation or location your in. For no matter what material goods or inheritance we give our children, we cannot protect them from the future, we can only hope the values we display will guide their life's journey.

Tool No.3. A third thing I have learned is to limit my expectations. Someone said, "Want nothing, and you will always be satisfied!" Dale Carnegie said that we need to "cooperate with the inevitable." Not that we shouldn't have goals and dreams, but I have learned to be a little less hard on myself when something doesn't go the way I had planned. There is a joke that suggests, "If you want to make God laugh, just tell Him "your" plans. It seems I am setting myself up to be frustrated whenever I believe I am in complete control of my life.

Tool No.4. Without sounding too cynical, I have learned to "expect ingratitude." It does little good to blame others, and it usually only hurts ourselves.

Tool No.5 "Faith." I know my faith has definitely made my life easier to accept and appreciate. I follow a friend's suggestion to "give all my troubles to God every evening, because God is probably going to be up all night anyway."

Tool No.6 "Friends and Family." As a social worker I am always encouraging "talking" and sharing "feelings" Indeed, frequent positive communication between numerous supportive people is perhaps the best method for managing life's difficulties. "When you share your troubles, you cut them in half, but when you share your joy, you double it." This is my recommendation for you.

For questions or comments, e-mail me at

Bette Ide, Ph.D. RN

Editorial Board Member
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Author:Ide, Bette
Publication:Online Journal of Rural Nursing & Health Care
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2003
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