Bill Pringle - Bill@BillPringle
This page is intended for the young men that I teach in South Philly, but anyone is welcome to read it.
The lesson for 38 Oct, 2007 was on Gratitude. For this lesson, I played some songs from two singer/songwriters from the '60s: Steve Goodman and Phil Ochs. Steve had a great sense of humor and wrote many funny songs. He also wrote many serious songs - some sad, some inspirational, etc. Phil Ochs was the ultimate protest singer from the '60s. Most of his songs are very serious, and political in nature. He was a journalism student who wrote his stories in songs, basically.
Both died when they were young. Steve Goodman died of cancer. Even knowing that he was dying of cancer, Steve maintained a sense of humor and wrote many of his best (both funny and serious) songs after learning he had cancer. (Back then, there was no cure for cancer. Doctors might be able to keep you for a while longer, but you were pretty sure you were going to die before your time.
Phil Ochs, on the other hand, committed suicide. He was depressed, and unable to deal with the fact that Bob Dylan became more popular than he did. While Dylan turned towards pop music, Ochs stayed with folk music protest songs, and never received the commercial success of Dylan.
The difference between the two people is gratitude. Steve appreciated every day of his life. He would not allow the fact that he was dying of cancer take away from his ability to enjoy life. Although shorter than many would have liked, he was able to enjoy it. Phil, on the other hand, concentrated on what he didn't have rather than what he had. He was not able to appreciate the fact that he was famous and well liked within his own circle. Even though he didn't have commercial success, there were many who loved and appreciated him and his work. Perhaps if he were able to be grateful for what he had rather than depressed about what he didn't have, he might still be alive today.
We can't control what happens to us. We can only control how we react to what happens to us. How we respond to things greatly affects how much joy and happiness we gain from our lives. The choice is ours - we can be happy or we can be sad, and that is totally under our control. As we can see from the lives of Steve Goodman and Phil Ochs, what happens to us doesn't have to control how we respond to life.
There is a Mormon scripture D&C 59:7:
7 Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things
Notice it says we should thank the Lord for all things, not just the things we think of as good. Sometimes the problems that God gives us actually make us better, and allows us to enjoy life even more because we are able to overcome those difficulties.
I think it is important to add that depression is a very serious desease. It isn't just somebody not being happy - it is something that affects their bodies, which also affect their minds. Not all diseases can be cured by spiritual means. That is why we have doctors. If you have depression, you should have it treated the same as if you have diabetes, or blood pressure. If you take advantage of the medications that are available to you for whatever illness you have, you can better cope with the disease. Unfortunately, Phil Ochs was not able to do that, and apparently was not taking his medications. But just as, if you have diabetes, you need to take your medications and watch what you eat, if you have depression, there are things that you can do to help ease the effects of the disease. Unfortunately, for those suffering from depression, they are often not motivated to take their medication, or to attempt to overcome their disease.
My daughter in England home schools her kids (ages 13 & 15). She ordered a lot of books and had them sent to our house. My wife read many of them, and suggested the following would be of interest to the young men I teach at Church.