February 26, 2017


My mother-in-law Meda Allen had all sorts of quirky ways of speaking, humorous and sometimes earthy. One thing she would say when something pitiful would appear was, “That’s a poor damn thing.” Somehow we took it up, but shortened it to PDT. We use it humorously or sometimes in a sarcastic way among the family.


I have known in my life a number of PDTs who were truly pitiful and needy, people who didn’t seem to ever find anything but sorrow. If your only son had been put into an insane asylum and doctors were more or less experimenting on him without your ability to stop it, you would have good reason to be worried and a PDT. If physical disabilities have made you unable to live a normal life, no one would be surprised if you felt you were a PDT. If life keeps giving you lemons and you can’t afford sugar for lemonade, you could become a PDT.


The strange thing is that the people described above are generally happy and feel worthwhile. They could never be termed PDTs because they don’t feel sorry for themselves. They deal with what’s wrong and give joy to others. One of the most joyful persons I have ever met is a cousin born without arms. She has a job and does computer work with her toes. To talk with her is to feel happy, and I don’t think it’s just the gratitude that I do have arms.


Our assumption as human beings is that there are ways to become mostly happy if we know what they are and can use them. I’m not talking about chemical depression or other diseases that remove the ability to feel happy. I have certainly spent some of my life in failures and dead ends I have felt like a PDT for a while. But I was raised to be self-confident and optimistic, so misery doesn’t last very long. This is true of almost everyone I know. We fall down and get back up. We keep trying. I may know a couple of permanent PDTs. I have met people who seem to make a career of being PDTs and really don’t want to change. If they get something out of self-pity and there are real options to change, it must be worth-while to remain pitiable (“I’m happy when I’m sad.”)


We have a great number of single older people in our townhouse community. Some are lacking not only a spouse or companionship but good health. Some have kids who ignore them. These seniors are capable of becoming PDTs, but most do not. They just fill their lives up with good things and service. They at least seem to go on with courage.


We all suffer misfortunes in our lives. We mostly overcome or deal with them. Scientists say that the secret to being happy is to decide to be happy. Children play on the rubble of their bombed out homes. Farmers who are flooded or frosted out plan for next year. Widows sell the large house and buy a cozy condo. Blinded people learn Braille. Forsaken lovers find someone else. We are resilient and resourceful if we believe that life is worth-while, if we have hope.


I think it’s comparisons that make us waste our time on PDT-hood. I can name older people who are still accomplished, courageous, noble, and venerated. I am a product of the decisions I have made and the talents I was given. I could be a PDT because I’m not what I dreamed I’d be. Or I am marvelously blessed because of all the wonderful things in life that I have enjoyed, learned from, and received as God-given gifts. Yes, I must comfort and try to encourage the PDTs I find so that they can overcome or adapt to the reasons for their sorrow. I don’t want to belittle or denigrate anyone who is depressed or sorrowful or simply overwhelmed by life. I can help by accepting and loving them. Then if they remain PDTs, I continue praying to God that in their lives they may have bouquets of happiness enough to make life not just bearable but fulfilling. That they may indeed smell the roses of life. PMA