Words for the sad and scared this Holiday Season… For you.

The holidays are usually a time of great celebration… but not for all.  Some need a kind word and a loving nod.  For those of you who need a boost this holiday season, this article from Michael Johnson is for you.

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Michael Johnson




It was in me when I came. This desire to know what it is that helps in our time of need. On the farm where I was raised when an animal suffered, I suffered with them. The men said I was too soft. Now I know they suffered with me. The only difference was I showed mine. Later, I would wonder what it is that helps not only the animal heal but what helps us heal? Not from physical injury but rather the mental slings and arrows that make their way inside all of us from time to time. Those slights, those rejections, those times when we are swept aside and brushed away, when someone says ‘you don’t have it’ – what helps us restore our faith and self-esteem in those times?   I wondered.

After a few false starts – think failures – my mind and that desire inside joined as one and I began to look for the answer in earnest. There was never a worse student than me early on – 13 F’s in row at the university. (Only record I ever set.) Then the transformation came brought on by caring souls at the university who extended their hands to me – me, the least of these – and showed me a better way. Each professor who helped me was different in their own way of course, but an old Jewish proverb explains how that can be… “Lamps are different but the light is the same.” I kept looking for the answer.

I looked in lecture halls. The teachers were from Columbia, Ohio State, Berkeley, Penn State, LSU, and Tulane and Rice. I listened to their lectures, took notes, and took tests…and I didn’t find it.  I looked in libraries and in the books inside. I looked in Freud and Jung, Sandor Ferenzci, Rollo May, Martin Heidegger, George Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Sartre, and Camus…and I didn’t find it. When they put that cowl around my neck on graduation night, I looked up to the sky. The fog was still there. That is why I never took the title of ‘Dr.’ too seriously.

     But to my credit I didn’t give up on the quest. I kept looking and after years of searching, I found it. Not all of it but enough to make my heart soar. It’s like quicksilver, you know. You can get close to it – close enough to reach out and almost touch it. You can see it but only for a moment. Then it’s gone. But I’ve seen it.

I’ve seen it in men and women working with troubled horses. I’ve seen it in some teachers working with a certain child, and I’ve seen it in my wife. Like this…

“Can I bother you for a moment?” said the young woman standing just outside the door.

“Sure you can,” said my wife. “That’s what I’m for.”

The young woman came in. Attractive. Well dressed. She seated herself. Her hands were shaking. Tears spilled over her eyelids and down her face. She spoke…

“I’m 33,” she said. “My husband was beating me. I found the courage to leave. I took my two young children and came here a few days ago. I need to earn my daily bread. I have to graduate from this university and I’m afraid. What if I fail? What if I can’t do it?” Silence.

(What do you do here? Freud, Jung? Some theory? Medication? What helps? What heals?)

This does…

After a time, my wife spoke. “You’ve had a difficult trial. Sometimes we have those.

Yours was bad and some have worse than yours. But I wouldn’t be worried if I were you.”

“You wouldn’t? asked the young woman.

“No, because any woman who is strong enough to get away from a man who is beating her and take her two children to a strange land to save them has more than enough strength and courage to get a college degree. Do not be afraid and don’t worry if you can or not. What is important right now is that I know you can do it. Take comfort in that. Now your journey begins. It won’t be easy but you can do it. We will stay beside you every step of the way. When you fall we will help you up. Come with me now and I will introduce you to some strong women who have overcome. Wipe your eyes, put your shoulders back, stand erect, get your head up. Don’t look down. Put a smile on your face. We are going out into the world to begin again. Come with me.   We have much to do.”

There it is. There it is. There it is. Found it! It was never about theory. It was always about spreading hope and encouragement and building self-esteem. Not false flattery. Not artificial praise, but believing in another before they believe in themselves. Humans, horses, working stock dogs. Doesn’t matter. All mammals respond to the same things.

Found it!


–Michael Johnson


December Bucket Fund!

In honor of Mama Tess, the older ladies of The Golden Carrot… Lucy and Glory!  Click here for their story!

All sales benefit the December Bucket Fund – Michael’s gift in honor of Mama Tess!  Thank you all and Thank you, Michael, for this wonderful gift of literary delight that captures the essence of the bond.


1)  AUDIO CD:  Here is a link to purchase the Audio CD of THE TRIALS OF JOE BEN BLACK (includes shipping) for $40.  You will get it in time for the holidays!

2)  Here is a link to purchase the book of THE TRIALS OF JOE BEN BLACK (includes shipping) for $35.

Click to read her story!

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