I’ve grown up in a very hard world. But if I meet you as my most genuine and authentic self, my truest, god joyful self, I am inviting you to meet me at the same place.

Patrick Dougher

Reflections of Life produces powerful short films that uplift the personal stories of ordinary people, with the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change. We feel blessed to feature video-stories that filmmakers Michael and Justine capture with expertise, and which so beautifully illustrate grateful living principles and themes. In this short film we hear from Patrick Dougher.

Learn more about Reflections of Life (formerly Green Renaissance) through our Grateful Changemaker feature.

Video Transcript

This morning when I went out for coffee the light hit this tree in such a beautiful way and it lit up in orange. And I wanted to tap everybody and be like, ‘Are you guys seeing this?’ This is an amazing moment and I know it’s fleeting right…that light’s going to shift in a minute. But just in that moment, the orange that was illuminated by the sun hitting this tree that’s changing right, because it’s autumn, oh my god, I got chills just now. And it brought me such a feeling of peace and joy in the simplicity of it, you know.

I really did… I wanted to tap people and be like, ‘hey, don’t lose this moment. You’re on your way to work and I’m sure you have 100 things on your mind. But can we just take a second and acknowledge that this is a perfect moment?’ At least I got to see it. And now I get to share it.

I think people might mistakenly see me as someone who is aggressive or unapproachable. I’ve heard people tell me that. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, and particularly during the time I grew up, which was a very dangerous place to live, I’ve acquired a facade of toughness and keeping a very straight face.

I wear a mask when I step out the door just as a survival technique. I have to portray a certain facade that allows me to maneuver through this society, through these streets. In fact, if I had to wear a mask that really represented me it would be a clown mask. Because I’m just always looking for the silliness, the joke, the moment to find something to laugh at. Laughter is really the spice of life.

When I took this apartment, the guy who showed me the apartment said, ‘This is a really great place. The only problem is it’s next door to a school and the kids let out two or three times a day. And they’re just laughing, they’re just laughing all the time.’ And I thought, that’s the biggest selling point of this apartment. That’s what you should have started with.

I get to hear these children laugh twice a day. And what that does is it reminds me, when I get bogged down with being an adult, when I get bogged down with this identity of having to be serious and mature, I recognize this shit is all ridiculous. And the kids remind me in their laughter that really that’s where it’s at. I get to look at them run around and they’re experiencing their body, they’re experiencing this mobile vehicle, this communication device, and they’re trying it out. The pure joy of just being in this physical…kids will run just to run, they’re not going anywhere. There’s no destination. They’re just running. Because they’re so happy to be in this body. And they’ll laugh and they’ll shout, strictly to laugh and shout. So it’s wonderful to have a daily reminder that that is really what life is. We all want to be those kids, running around, laughing and shouting, strictly for the joy of it. And I never ever want to lose contact with that innate joy.

Overall I have to say that I feel incredibly grateful for this journey. It’s been full of challenges, ups and downs, a lot of pain, a lot of bliss. It’s really been the full ride. But there are absolutely things in my life that feel hurtful, that feel scary, that challenge my sense of self. I think about relationship issues. I don’t have a partner at the moment. That’s always been a struggle with me. I don’t feel like I’ve been able to find that ‘one.’ And I’ve been really hoping for that. And that plays into my insecurities and feelings of, as I get older, will I be alone?

I often struggle with the idea of my self worth, whether I feel good enough. I think that comes largely from the way I was brought up. For many years if you had asked me how I was raised, I would say I was left to my own devices. I raised myself. Which was a soft way of me saying I was neglected. And that neglect, what that told me as a child was I wasn’t worth the love, the attention, the guidance. And here I am. I turned 60 at the beginning of this month and I’m still struggling with this idea of am I worthy? I have to talk that voice down, you know. And it’s an ongoing thing.

That’s the primal question, isn’t it? That is the question that we are all constantly asking ourselves, whether we’re doing it consciously or not…who am I?

I have these identities. I came into a family that was financially disadvantaged, with an African American mom and an Irish American dad who were both very young. There’s a lot of addiction in my family. A lot of mental illness, a lot of unaddressed traumas. These things that I could put on paper as these are who I am. All those identities that give me building blocks but aren’t who I am, they’re not who I am.

What my body is is a mobile communication device. I get to move around and communicate with the world through this thing but it ain’t me. This is this vehicle that I’m blessed enough to inhabit, I’m borrowing it, it’s on lease you know. And it’s decaying sweetly over time. But it’s not who I am.

I feel worthy, I feel enough… honestly, interestingly enough it’s when I’m alone and away from people. When I don’t have what I perceive to be the judgement of other folks, is when I feel my fullest worth. For my birthday, at the beginning of the month, I went away and I had some time alone in the woods. When I step out the door here I’m immediately seen as a man, as a Black man, as an older Black man. Immediately I’m put into a category and I’m treated as such. And because I’m treated as such, I start to see myself as such. When I’m alone in the woods, those things don’t apply. And I get to be my most authentic spirit self.

All that’s left is worth. All that’s left is this genuine gratitude for the fact that I have had this human experience.

I had the blessing of being a teacher and I worked with mostly inner city kids, kids that came from backgrounds like mine, disadvantaged backgrounds. And often my speech to them would be…You need to recognize that you’re smarter than you think you are. You’re more beautiful than you think you are. You’re more intelligent than you think you are, you’re more capable, resilient and resourceful than you think you are. You’re stronger than you think you are. Constantly reminding folks that we live in a society, unfortunately, that beats us down and tries to keep us in boxes. And I think if we can connect to our divine nature we will recognize that we’re limitless. There is absolutely nothing that should be holding us back, across the board. Race, gender, nationality, religion… the divinity is the uniting energy that we all share. And I think, reminding myself first so that I can go and remind others that that’s really the core of where we’re at.

Hopefully when people connect with me I’m able to convey to them that I see you, I really see you. I’m seeing you away from the facade of your physical body. I’m seeing you away from your gender, your sexual preference, your race, your religion. I know that you and I exactly want the same thing. We want to be happy, right?

I’ve been really blessed to have the full range of experiences with people. I’ve had deep connections with people who are down and out on the so called lowest rungs of society’s ladder. And I’ve hung out with people that are famous. And what we want is all the same. I really feel like every single human, from Donald Trump to the Dalai Lama, basically want the same very simple things. We want to be loved. We want to feel secure. We want to feel healthy and good. We want to be respected. And we want to feel like our life has purpose. Really, I think everybody wants that, right. How we get there…sometimes, unfortunately we get a bad playbook. We get wrong information. We deal with traumas and so on. So it comes out, sometimes, unfortunately, hurtful. But if you can look at every single person on those five principles…I know that person wants to be loved. I know they want to be heard and respected. I know that they want to feel healthy and good. I know that they want to feel like they have a purpose. Every single person has that.

Often, if you are genuine, if you are honest and vulnerable, if you set that tone in any interaction one of two things is going to happen. You’re either going to really repel people because they can’t get there with you. Or you’re going to have someone go ‘aaah, I can drop this facade. I can actually tell this person exactly what I’m feeling right now because they’ve set the bar there.’ And so I try to have every meeting with this recognition that there is nothing that we cannot discuss, there is nothing that we can’t be vulnerable about, there’s nothing that’s not worth a laugh. And I see you. And I hope you see me. And so now we can connect.

And we can talk about the serious shit. We live in a very, very serious time, very dread time, explosive times. I’m not denying that. And I’ve grown up in a very hard world. But… but…if I meet you as my most genuine and authentic self, my truest, god joyful self, I am inviting you to meet me at the same place. And I know you’re there, I know you’re there. So we can get there together, I hope.

If you can remember that your real purpose is to connect to everything and everyone, that’s the most joyful existence you can have.

To support Michael and Justine in their film-making journey, visit Reflections of Life.

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About the author

Justine and Michael are a creative couple living in South Africa.  Their project, Reflections of Life (formerly Green Renaissance), works to spread positive stories that reflect the wonder of the world. With the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change, they produce gorgeous short films that are posted online and available for anyone, anywhere, to watch and share freely.


Through their films, they explore what it means to be human. They touch on topics that can often be difficult for people to discuss – from loss of a loved one to aging and retirement to friendship to love and courage – universal themes that we all deal with at some stage in our lives.


By sharing these stories, Justine and Michael hope to remind us of one simple truth – that we are all human – that inside our hearts and minds, we are all facing similar challenges.  We have so much to learn from each other, and our connections run so much deeper and stronger than we think. Learn more and support their work at reflectionsof.life.