The author is a sixteen-year professional caregiver, published writer/researcher, and clinical supervisor with a master’s degree in psychological counseling from Columbia University. He has held positions at Johns Hopkins Hospital, YAI Institute in New York City, and the Shepherd Catastrophic Care Center in Atlanta.
As a professional caregiver and clinical supervisor, I have seen it too often: people struggling with difficult and potentially destructive ideals. Being valuable or special (or not) are among these ideals.
I was struggling with the notion of value and how it applied to people one day while walking through Central Park in NYC. I sat down to rest a minute and eyed a shiny penny lying in the middle of a pedestrian walkway. I watched for an hour as people walked right by it, and over it, and around it, like it was a leaf or a twig. I won’t say trash because I bet if it were trash, some litter-conscious person would have picked it up. But nobody picked that little penny up. So I asked myself one of those dangerous questions that lead to more and more questions: is a penny worth anything anymore? That led to, what makes any kind of money valuable? For that matter, what makes anything, including people, valuable or not, or special? What, exactly, do we mean when we say a person is special? Is it something we are born with, or can we become special? Does it matter what we look like, where we live, or how much money we have? And if we were special once, do we remain special forever, or can we lose our specialness?
All these questions struck me, and I vowed I would find the true meaning of being valuable and special. That is why I wrote Benny the Penny and the Big Secret: to share what I found in a way even children can understand. Pick up a copy. You’ll see what I mean.