Fresh from Wesleyan University in 1958 I spent three enjoyable years at YDS. Richard Niebuhr and a course downtown with William Christian were the highlights of my intellectual experience there. I was married in December of that first year and had my first child during my last finals in 1961. I headed off for a small church outside of Tacoma Washington and enjoyed that experience for five years. I especially enjoyed adapting thoughts like those of Bultmann to a rural community.    

Finding that my psychology shelf was growing five times faster than my theology one, I headed off to Fuller Theological Seminary where they promised an integration of psychology and religion. Schleiermacher was thought to be evil at Fuller, and they had a different concept regarding the integration than mine. In fact, I don’t think my doctoral education wouldn’t have been very good if it wasn’t for Paul Clement (a behaviorist), and a job at a state hospital working under Clara Lee Edgar. I developed my dissertation under the two of them and actually published a small paper. I’ve broken contact with Fuller over what I see as a misuse of the Bible by President Mouw regarding homosexuality.

During my dissertation years I was enjoying being a part-time associate minister with Mark Trotter, and took a full-time associates position in Burbank when I graduated. After three years, some 200 mostly new people, drawn by my preaching on the radio once a month, liked what they heard, but it seemed too different to the remaining 1,800. I was already doubling my salary on my day off as a licensed psychologist at Mark’s church, so I “located” and opened a private practice.

My mentality is ministry, which led to never making much money in private practice. At the worst point, we (a new wife and I) had moved to northern Idaho with my three sons. I was working 30 hours doing domestic violence and sexual assault at an office in a Women’s Center. That was for free, and on top of still trying to make a living. We had a small farm and raised most of our own food. Eating was good, but everything else was pretty minimal.

When I reach 70 years of age, I closed my practice and we moved to the Flathead Reservation in western Montana. My wife (of 36 years now) is Metis. I had 30 years of experience working with Head Start in Idaho, so I offered consultation to the Early Childhood Services of the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes. They wanted to hire me. They had long needed a Mental Health Consultant with a license. I’ve enjoyed this 25 hour-per-week job for four years.

This year I’m also consulting with Tribal Social Services on a parenting project and volunteering time with a suicide prevention group. I’m trying to get a paper published: “Suicide Prevention from the Point of View of a Developmental Psychologist.” My wife and I spend a couple of hours in the morning staring out our window at the Mission Mountains and sipping coffee, and also have time together most evenings. I’ve also gotten a book, The Psychology of Denial, almost ready for self-publishing. I’ve been thinking about it for ten years and seriously writing for four.

Yes, I’m a bit workaholic, but I’ve never been happier. My sons and their families are happy and well. My granddaughter is in college planning to do social work. Both her dad and mom are Lutheran pastors. My grandsons are big healthy soccer players getting top grades. This modern family lives from Oakland to Philadelphia and the Hartford area; we Skype more than physically visit.

My youngest is finishing his Psy.D. at the Wright Institute in Berkeley. He suffered a spinal-cord injury in the Peace Core, taught in Montessori schools for 11 years in his wheel chair, and then went back to school. His dissertation is applying Sue’s cultural diversity issues to the medical model that calls the seriously physically impaired “disabled.” He’s trying to establish that people confined to wheel chairs aren’t disabled, they’re just physically challenged, and would be treated better if that was clearly understood just like other issues of cultural diversity.

I’ve decided that the Creator has given us all that we need, so I don’t ask for anything anymore, though I still pray regularly. I’m mostly just thankful. When you’re happy at 75 all of the mistakes are less worrisome, even acceptable. I use prayer to focus on what I have left to learn, and to be thankful, very thankful.

Jack Wright, Ph.D., St. Ignatius, MT – alexjack@blackfoot.net 

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