At the worst moment of your life when you aren’t sure how you’re going to get through today, let alone move forward, the smallest act of kindness can save you. It can get you through the day and eventually to a place where you can say, “I don’t know where the other shore of this dark sea is, but I’ll get there somehow.” It can give you the courage to keep paddling and return the sense that you deserve to be saved.
Sometimes it’s a tornado that tears your life to bits, sometimes it’s an injury. When I hurt my back a few years ago, I found myself utterly lost and completely alone in the obliterated space that had been my whole life. I lost all sense of who I was if I couldn’t work or even lift my own groceries.
I was drowning, and I’m not sure I would have even realized I already knew how to swim had it not been for simple acts of kindness.
The moment I started to move forward I wanted to help others do the same. I didn’t know what lay ahead of me, and in many ways I really still don’t, but I was absolutely sure helping other people along the way was the best way to get there.
I’ve been following Team Rubicon since I first heard about them in the wake of the Haiti earthquake, but I wasn’t sure I could be of any use as a volunteer if I couldn’t get dirty and do the heavy lifting. I registered as a volunteer, but I never signed up for deployments because I still felt helpless. When I finally worked up the courage to reach out and say I want to help but I don’t know how to if I can’t swing a sledgehammer, I was hit with life-saving kindness. “Of course we can use you! There’s always something to do, even if you can’t haul debris all day!”
Team Rubicon welcomed me and reminded me again that being less physically able than I once was doesn’t make me any less valuable. I had an instinct to help other people begin to find their way out of the darkness, even if it was just by tearing out some carpet and drywall, but before I even stepped foot on a pile of debris, I got so much more than I could ever give.
I realized that by focusing on what I couldn’t do anymore, I forgot how much I can do. I’ve been on two deployments now, and I can promise you that if you’re sitting at home feeling like you can’t contribute, you’re wrong. You are not only useful, you’re invaluable, and all you have to do is say, “I want to help and this is what I can do.”
Civil War veteran Robert Ingersoll said, “We rise by lifting others,” and he could not have been more right. When the seas are dark and rough, we’re better off paddling together.