Now that’s how to spend 96 years.
Rosalynn Carter’s life is an extraordinary witness that demands that we pause in respect. But she would know we were not paying attention if we paused longer than that. She was fierce, urgent and tenacious in doing good, especially for those who suffered with any kind of mental or emotional burden. In the book, Everything to Gain, written just after they returned home to Plains from Washington, DC., Rosalynn said, “What I have learned over these years of work and study is that mental illnesses are less understood than almost any other major health problems, and that most people who experience difficulties suffer needlessly. The mystery, stigma, and misconceptions that surround mental illnesses prevent many people in need of psychiatric help from seeking treatment.” I once drafted notes for her to speak at a meeting in Pittsburgh at a Divinity School about the church and mental health. I thought the notes were somewhat aggressive, but she wanted them tougher: “the first word anyone in the church should say about mental health is an apology. The church has been the last bastion of the worst stigmas.” She never gave up on the church but had eyes wide open to the ugly complicity it has with the cruelty experienced by those it finds inconvenient to care about. That stigma is, was and will be the biggest challenge facing those individuals and their families.
If you want to honor Rosalynn Carter today, reach out to one of those you know (you do know more than one) and say you care.