Problems, problems, problems

It was in the mid-1980s–30 years ago–but I still remember the astonishment I felt.
I had driven 120 miles to attend a mental health communication seminar led by Dr. Carol Oukrop, a good friend and my former professor.
As I remember the situation, there were 15 or 20 of us sitting around a large seminar table, and the first thing on the agenda was show-and-tell. Each of us had been instructed to bring 20 copies of one of our publications to share.
I have no idea what I took. But it doesn’t really matter because the clear hit of the day was a radio spot that one man shared.
“Problems . . . problems . . . problems . . .,” he read. He went on to explain that life “is” problems and how you deal with them affects your mental health.
But when problems get out of control, there is help from your community mental health centre. And the radio spot ended with the name of the mental health centre he represented.
As he read, everyone was attentive. After he finished, the accolades rolled in. Everyone thought it was a very effective spot and I was of the same opinion.
But the problem was that the man’s radio spot was plagiarized! Every word except the name of his centre was stolen from a brochure I had written for Prairie View Mental Center a year earlier.
I knew from the beginning that little brochure was a winner, so I had stepped out on a limb and had 25,000 copies printed—a huge run at a time when printing was expensive and our regular run was about 2,000.
The brochure was distributed to churches, factories, businesses, and other public places in our tri-county area to spread the word about Prairie View services.
But what I hadn’t thought about was its potential as a radio spot. I had to give credit to this enterprising young man for that idea!
Stunned at his boldness, I listened while the man accepted all the glory. He seemed pleased with his success!
In order to not embarrass anyone, I decided to hold my tongue—even to Carol. After all, it was for a good cause.
Problems . . . problems. . . . That young man was right and he had just created a serious problem for himself—if I had called him on it!
There are small problems and big problems–problems of our own making and unavoidable ones.
Just as I was beginning this week’s column, I encountered a small problem that could have become a big one. I dumped a whole glass of water on my desk next to my computer.
After helping clean up, my son said the obvious, “You know it was your fault.”
Yes, it was my fault. And it’s up to me to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I now have a TV tray by my side for beverages.
The first rule of problem-solving is to prevent problems, whenever possible. And when problems do come up, think–look at all the options and choose the best plan of action.
After all, your experience has taught you how to cope. You are ready to face difficult problems.
As we age, we face many difficult problems. How fortunate that we have so many life experiences to help us solve them.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at