Parenting column

Every few years I come across a book which is not written for marketing purposes, or to sell you something else. Rather, it’s an actual embodiment of someone’s life work.

It’s an attempt to share the knowledge they have gained, in the form of wisdom, for all of us to benefit from.

One such book is “The Boy Who Was Raised by a Dog.” The authors, Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz, share 10 case studies of children. The stories are painful and hopeful. Interwoven into the stories, the authors share their wisdom gained from work on the front lines.

DAVID WENZELI highly recommend this book to anyone with a desire to understand the needs of children, and really the needs of all humans.

In their concluding statements they rehearse the changes of civilization over the centuries. Dating as far back into recorded history as we can go, humans lived in groups typically made up of 40-150 members.

Often they were closely related, and they lived communally, sharing tasks and problems. By 1500 the average family group was reduced to about 20 people whose lives were interconnected on a daily basis.

By 1850 the group size was reduced to 10, and in 1960 it was down to five. In 2000, the average household was less than four, and now approximately 25 percent of Americans live alone.

Advances in technology have further isolated us.

The authors point out that the world today, in a sense, is “biologically disrespectful,” not taking into account many human needs (connection and touch). Additionally, our culture tends to pull us away from activities that are healthy for the body, toward those which research show are harmful.

The authors feel that we are at a crossroads. Unfortunately, my field (counseling and psychology) has contributed to the idea that you “cannot love another until you love yourself.”

The authors correct that notion with the key to what they have discovered: It is difficult to love another unless you have been loved and are loved.

In other words, “The capacity to love cannot be built in isolation.”

The thing about a cultural crossroads is that none of us can sit back and wait for policy to change, or for the infamous “they” to solve it. In this case we are all sitting at the crossroads. We all make choices every day that affect which road we turn down.

If you haven’t seen the top-five regrets of the dying, as recorded by a hospice care worker, I recommend googling it.

Among the top five are these:

• “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”

• “I wish I had expressed my feelings.”

• “I wish I had invested in friendships.”

My own experience as a chaplain for the Veterans Administration re-enforces those findings; all the regrets I heard at the end of life were relationship regrets.

Today is the day.

Each of us is healthier when we invest in others: children, our families, our friends.

As cheesy as it might sound, you make a difference in the world when you connect with someone else. Do it today. Make it a practice. It might be with children in your family. It might be with adult family members. It might be with friends. It might be a complete stranger.

Regardless of your religious beliefs it is very hard to argue with the idea that we should first love others, and not wait to be loved. And read the book!

Longtime Sandy resident Dr. Dave Wenzel is a parent, a professor of counseling, and a Licensed Professional Counselor. He works with children, individuals, families and couples. His office, River Ridge Counseling, is located in Sandy. He may be reached at 503-803-0444 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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