29 January 2021

Your Second Act

Patricia Heaton spent nine years on Everybody Loves Raymond, and then went on to play Frankie Heck on The Middle for another nine years. The latter series came to an end around the time that Patricia and her husband David became empty nesters, with all four of their sons having moved out of the house. The actress decided to don a producer's hat for her next project, the sitcom Carol's Second Act, which she also starred in as a divorced empty nester who pursues her dream of becoming a doctor after age 50. The series was canceled after one season, leaving Patricia reflective about the experience.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, she told me, "Failures are part of God's plan, too. That's where you grow character. You learn to trust God [and] offer up your suffering, your insecurities, and your fears. . . . As a Catholic, the way I was raised in the late '50s, early '60s . . . the nuns were always telling you to offer it up. So, when bad stuff comes, I'm always like, 'Here it is, I've been waiting for it.' . . . One of the great things about the Catholic Church is the focus on suffering. We can offer up our suffering the way Christ did. It gives suffering a transformative and meaningful power. It helps transform your suffering from senselessness."

Patricia’s work on Carol's Second Act also got her thinking about how other people deal with unexpected difficulties. As a result, she wrote the book Your Second Act, in which she shares the stories of people who have reinvented their lives.

As an example, Patricia cites Yudi Bennett, who "had a son with autism, and she went from being a TV producer to teaching kids on the spectrum how to do computer graphics. She now has this school and studio, and contracts with places like HBO and Marvel. These kids are learning to become independent: having a skill, learning pride, and becoming functioning members of society. So, wonderful things have come out of the difficulties."

The people Patricia highlights in Your Second Act also implicitly promote a greater reverence for life. In addition to Yudi Bennett's story, for instance, there is Dani Klein Modisett, who came up with a unique way to ease the loneliness of dementia patients, and Rachel Arazashvili, who became an advocate for orphans and children with disabilities. Patricia notes that it's vital to look at each person as an individual instead of lumping them into a "category of disabled people."

She continued, "Our life is a journey of discovery and growth, and it's those circumstances which help us to become more compassionate, sympathetic, and empathetic human beings. To try to just eliminate a problem so you don't have any stress in your life, it's not the way to grow and live in a humane society. . . . People talk a lot about self-care, but if self-care becomes your god, then you're going to want to eliminate anything that gets in your way. . . . Yeah, we should take care of ourselves as best we can, but it shouldn't be the whole goal in life to have an easy life. The goal is to live in this community with each other and be there for each other in this world that is tough. My liaison at World Vision, Kathryn Compton, said, 'Christ commands us to do three things: help the poor, help the poor, and help the poor.' I think we can apply that to all our fellow human beings. That is going to give you . . . a sense of self-worth and self-love."

This essay is a recent "Light One Candle" column written by Tony Rossi, Director of Communications, The Christophers; it is one of a series of weekly columns that deal with a variety of topics and current events.

Background information:

The Christophers

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