Late last year I was introduced to Dr. John Drimmer, a psychologist, documentarian and former “60 Minutes” producer with a great idea for helping young people. In both his filmmaking and his practice, John had seen the profound impact sharing personal stories of hard-earned wisdom had on interviewees and their listeners alike. Knowing that university students increasingly report feeling depressed, anxious, confused and isolated, he wanted to launch a pilot project at USC that trained students to film their friends and classmates sharing the most valuable lessons they’d learned by experience – about everything from homesickness to surviving sexual assault – and then edit and post those interviews to a campus-specific website. I loved John’s idea immediately, and he and I became fast friends and partners on Wisdomify USC, which should go live this fall.
Last semester, after watching me interact with various students and professors, swapping stories about supporting people in crisis, and listening to a few of my podcasts, John asked how I raise enough money to support all this community-building work. When I told him it’s still an uphill struggle, he seemed puzzled. I don’t understand, he said. Why don’t you just supplement your fund-raising by taking on some paying clients as a counselor and coach?
I laughed at first. I’m not a licensed counselor, for starters, I told him, to which he calmly replied that California doesn’t require a license to offer pastoral care. But I have no formal training, I said. Come on, he protested, you have three decades of experience helping people overcome problems, find new direction, and improve their lives in meaningful ways, especially around issues of life after faith and family. Then he finished: Bart, don’t kid yourself. We both know this makes perfect sense. When you’re ready to start, I’ll be glad to send people your way.
Honestly, after chasing needy people down for most of my life, it took a while for me to wrap my head around the idea of regularly working with people already invested in changing their lives for the better. But everybody I asked said the same thing: Helping people this way is what you do best, brother. Go for it!
So then, I’m going for it, by taking on a limited number of clients (sometimes for just a few conversations, sometimes longer, both in person and via Skype and telephone), and by rebranding myself accordingly. That’s right, despite the fact our work on campus grows bigger and better every semester, Marty and I have finally realized that emphasizing my title as “Humanist Chaplain at USC” confuses people into thinking I’m actually on the USC payroll, when the truth is we need all the financial support we can get to keep things going. Raising that support will get easier as our students enter the workforce, of course, because they’re the ones most exited about the transformative power of our Secular Student Fellowship. In the meantime, however, I really need your help.
All the information about my counseling and coaching practice is right here on my website. I already have a handful of clients, and we’re seeing good results. Honestly, if you believe in my work, a great way to support it would be for you to recommend me to a friend or relative you think I might be able to help.
Another way, of course, would be to make a one-time or monthly donation to strengthen the chaplaincy and the podcast, or to just go ahead and listen to an episode of Humanize Me yourself, so you can intelligently recommend it to anyone who might enjoy or benefit from that kind of positive conversation.
Whatever you do, know this: Having friends like you, who support and spread the word about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, is one big reason I believe bringing together no-longer- and never-were- believers to build loving relationships, work for justice, and celebrate the wonders of life in a collective way, is going to change the world after all, for goodness’ sake.
PS If it sounds like Marty and I have fully settled into life in Los Angeles, well…that’s not quite true. Yes, Marty is thriving as the Operations Director of Friends in Deed, a super-cool non-profit serving homeless women and families in Pasadena, and yes, we love being close to our grown kids here, and yes, the weather is amazing. Still, we are increasingly aware of how much we miss our close-knit multi-generational community in Cincinnati, and increasingly certain that our lives won’t feel right until we’re part of something like that here as well. Wonderful as our USC students are, we’re finally ready to start building a more permanent local fellowship as well. Hey…that’s what I’ll write about next month!
Community Builder. Counselor. Conveyor of Humanist Hope.