Monday, April 14, 2008

PD men's group

Today, this afternoon, I attended the monthly meeting of the men’s support group for guys with Parkinsons Disease. There were 16 men present this time, about usual for these things. The topic for discussion today was “What makes this group
work?”

Apparently, this group is unusual in that it has been a viable group for a rather long time. While other groups like this one have floundered and disappeared, this group continues on. I have only participated for the past six months or so, but the group has been functioning for years with men coming and going over that period of time. And yet even with the fluctuations in the membership, the group continues on without a hitch. Why?

The leadership of the group is pair of individuals who have been involved for a long time and take seriously the responsibility of keeping the group alive. They call each member before each meeting to remind us of the meeting. That alone makes us feel that we are, each of us, important to the group and that the group is important enough to require our attending. Such a little thing looms large in the overall scheme of things. Those same two facilitators take the time and make the effort to find guest speakers that have something important to share with the group.

I also think that a group like this attracts only those men who are willing to share their experiences and concerns and are articulate enough to do so. As far as I can tell, all the members that I have encountered in my half dozen meetings are currently professionals or managers of some kind or have retired from such positions. Most seem to be comfortable with speaking out in a group. All have been well spoken and articulate. There isn’t any macho bullshit flying around.

I have also found that when any one of us expresses a concern or broaches a problem that is currently vexing him, the support from the group is never one of sympathy, but rather one of empathy. That may seem an inconsequential distinction, but none of us is looking for sympathy or pity, but rather understanding from the others who may have dealt with the same problem themselves or are experiencing the same problem now. Understanding that there are others coping with the same feelings and have found solutions, or at least methods of dealing with the problems, makes everyone better off.

So I guess the answer to the question, “What makes this group work?” is the people involved. Doesn’t it always come down to people?

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