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The Crucial Importance of Joy

Two of my favorite people “bumped” into one another recently.

One is Benzi Klugar. The other is Rich Harwood. Both use the word “joy” in ways that connect powerfully with my life and work. 

Dr. Kluger is a Parkinson’s expert in Rochester (NY) whom I have known since his days in Denver. He is acclaimed for re-envisioning the role of Palliative Care in Parkinson’s treatment.

Kluger introduces “joy” as an important goal in the evolution of Parkinson’s care. Writing in the JAMA Neurology Journal, he says:

“As medicine strives to provide person-centered care, it is essential that clinicians support the subjective well-being of people living with serious illness. Toward this end, addressing the subjective suffering of an individual is now recognized as complementary to medicine’s goals of treating disease. Joy, on the other hand, has generally fallen outside the purview of medicine, despite its central role in subjective well-being.”

Joy triggered my memory of Rich Harwood writing about my career in 2006. Rich is founder and president of the remarkably effective, civic-action group, The Harwood Institute.

Rich quoted from a note that I sent professional colleague and co-workers when I retired from leadership of The Tampa Tribune. 

“Thelen used the word ‘joy’ to describe his work, Harwood wrote. ‘There must be joy in making the paper if customers are going to find joy in reading it.’ He then called his colleagues joy makers.”

“Thelen is 67 years old,’ Rich said. “I don’t know very many people – of any age – who think of their work as making joy. Indeed, think about the words we usually ascribe to the topsy-turvy world of the news media; two that come immediately to mind are sensationalism and hype.

“These are the polite ones! But what if more news professionals were like Thelen? What if they thought of their profession in terms of their affection for the communities they serve?”

The warmth and understanding of Rich’s words remain with me 15 years later.

Thank you, my dear and good friend.

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