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We Do Not Walk Alone

By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
In difficult times where do I turn? I often look to persons, living or who have gone from this life, who inspire or challenge me to think differently. Most recently I have been so encouraged and heartened by the life and words of John Lewis. He wrote an OP ED for the New York Times, “Together, You can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation.” He encourages us, “ Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble.” He concluded, “So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.”

This made me think about those who have impacted me and those who continue to do so. I invite you to take this journey with me. Of course, my first mentors were my parents and teachers. We can be critical of parents’ failings but, the longer I live the more I think about the good things they taught me. Certainly, they strived to be responsible and dependable. Both parents pursued higher education on their own. They encouraged us to read and study. The frequent trips to the library were memorable. My sister and I were supported in having a neighborhood fair, doing tricks and selling popcorn. The bargain was that we must give our proceeds to the missions! Mom modeled volunteer work for us from the time we were very young.

My older brother taught us how to ride bikes, play baseball, basketball, have competitions for digging all the dandelions, and working in the garden. My sister and I followed him into religious life as young people,, eventually all returning to the secular world working in people-oriented professions. Educated in a Catholic school environment, and later spending over a decade as a religious sister, the nuns impacted my life in both positive and negative ways. These mentors helped me to see worth in myself, appreciate my writing and learning skills, and my insight and abilities with people. 

Dr. Kermit Phelps, a clinical psychologist and first African American to graduate with a Ph.D. in psychology from Kansas University, was my first therapist. He helped and encouraged me in ways that gave me hope and opened the way for me to believe I could be a mental health professional. He recommended that my abilities be used more effectively in a mental health setting and I was sent to St.Vincent’s Home for Children in Denver, Colorado. I loved the children and knew my heart was with people who had emotional wounds. He lived to attend the celebration of my Ph.D. in Psychology and Education thirty years later, honoring my mentors.

The list does go on and includes people in my everyday life whose books, plays, movies, art, or music have inspired me, and others whose lives challenged me to think bigger. In our current situation we need to look to others for inspiration and help. Ann Reed, a favorite musician, wrote a song “Heroes” in which she asks,


What can I learn from you
In your lifetime, in what you’ve been through…
One life can tell the tale
That if you make the effort, you cannot fail…
By your life you tell me it can be done
By your life’s the courage to carry on.


You can find more about her and her music at The song continues by chanting the names of many women who have contributed in positive ways. You could write your own list of those who have helped and inspired you.

As I thought about this article I began making the list of people who have been and are mentors for me. It is long and getting longer. I encourage you to think of those who have contributed to you in this way and those who are today. I imagine you are doing this for others as well. We are not alone as we face our daily challenges. Remember to think about and call on those who can walk with you. Then as Eleanor Roosevelt tells us, “You do the thing you think you cannot do.”



Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC is a counselor and educator at the Heartland Holistic Health Center. She is the author of the “Life Weaving Education Curriculum” that teaches creative, effective, holistic problem-solving. For counseling appointments (confidential video sessions), seminars, in-service training, or speaker’s bureau, call 816-509-9277 or; Some pro bono and lower fee sessions available at this time.


Evolving Magazine

Kansas City

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