Stumbling around in the dark can be painful, dangerous, and frustrating. We bump into stuff; we get lost; we despair. We lose our bearings and do not know how to get where we are trying to be.
But we each can help by lighting the way–with our words and actions. Consider kindness, for example, and how it can shine light on a very dark situation. In a story now going viral, a woman shared about how she was young in an elevator with her mother, who was berating her. As they left, a stranger whispered to her, “It’s not you; It’s her.” Just those five words of encouragement helped her to see beyond the horrid situation she found herself in and to buttress herself against the abuse rather than assuming, as all children do, that her mother was correct in the condemnation. She found hope:
“When life gets really dark, when she hears her (inner) mother’s voice telling that she’s sh*t, she can’t do it, or to just plain give up,” Solomon writes, “she then sees that stranger’s face as the door closes in front of her.” In fact, sometimes, Solomon says, “it’s the only thing that keeps her going.”
Think of the power you have just with your ability to be kind to someone who desperately needs it! What a gift it is to have eyes that can see suffering and to be able to help. That ripple of kindness never stops.
We love the myth of the self-made man, but it’s just a myth. There is always someone you can point to who helped you–maybe in obvious ways like putting a roof over your head or paying for your education, but even in more subtle ways like paving the streets you drive on and planting and harvesting the produce you eat. None of us can do it all. And that’s a good thing. Helping each other is what gives us purpose, and being grateful for that help keeps us humble.
In honor of Black History Month, each of the quotes this month for Quotable Creek has been drawn from Black voices. In keeping with today’s quote about accomplishments, consider this remarkable list of inventions by Black men and women:
We probably use at least one of these things each day. So to these men and women, and to all the others who have helped build our world into what it is today, thank you!
The monster’s threat in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is chilling: “Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful.” What might the monster do to exact revenge if he is truly fearless? Yikes.
But the statement taken out of context can also apply to non-monsters, people hoping to do good but paralyzed by fear to reach out. Fear gets in our way, and sometimes that’s a good thing. Fear can keep us safe from danger– falling, catching diseases, getting broken bones. But fear can also keep us from speaking out against injustice, reaching out to help a neighbor, defending a bully victim, or any one of an endless list of situations where our fighting that fear will result in a greater good. These situations stir us to act and to lay the fear aside because deep down we know the right thing to do, and we know that we are the one who needs to do it.
What are we here for anyway? What’s the point? Some people joke, ‘Life is hard, and then you die’, and there’s some truth to that. We are finite. We struggle. But there is purpose to life, and it lies in what we do for others. Andre Agassi says,
“Remember this. Hold on to this. This is the only perfection there is, the perfection of helping others. This is the only thing we can do that has any lasting value or meaning. This is why we’re here.”
Others joke ‘The one who dies with the most toys wins,’ but those things we do purely for ourselves are vanity. Instead, when we use our gifs and talents to reach out and help others, we’ve upped the good in the world. We’ve made a difference.
Sometimes we help; sometimes we need help. Sometimes we teach; sometimes we are the student. Sometimes we follow; sometimes we lead. But the truly profound thing in each of these examples is that we are always on both sides of the continuum at the same time. The teacher learns as much from her students as she teaches. The leader who best leads remembers what it is like to be led. And when we help others, it makes us more empathic, more generous, more loving and expands our own humanity. We realize we are one. We are a community that best thrives when all work to help each other.
Can you remember a time when you saved the day? Maybe you were able to help someone cover the cost of groceries when they came up short in line. Maybe you gave someone the Heimlich maneuver. Maybe you swerved to avoid a collision. Or maybe something less dramatic like saying a kind word to someone feeling blue.
In this charming video, a banker catches ducklings jumping off a ledge to get to their mother waiting below. Without him to help, they most likely would have been hurt. After all 12 are safe, he, and much of the town who have gathered to watch the rescue, lead the little duck family down a parade route to a nearby river. A modern Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, and the kind of story that can make all of us feel a bit better about the state of the world.
Helping others reminds us that we matter, that we are here for a reason, and that the world would be a darker place without us in it. That’s as helpful to us as to those we help. Win-win.