If No One Shows Up, We Can Help Each Other
I was early for my physical therapy appointment last week; receptionist and practitioners hadn’t yet arrived. When someone else waiting in the lobby said, “I guess if no one shows up, we can help each other,” I was struck by how universally applicable that sentiment was. If we trip and fall on the sidewalk (why I was in physical therapy) or our 3-year-old is throwing a tantrum or we suddenly realize we left our wallet/phone/mask at home, people can come to our aid, at least to our comfort and help steady our state of mind.
Synchronistically, two days later I was reading The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life. The very first chapter of that practical guide, Resilience, focuses on finding allies, getting to know the neighbors, and building reserves. Not everyone needs to read The Art of Dying Well right away. It was for me one of those “when the student is ready, the teacher appears” gifts from the universe. (But it IS excellent, and I can highly recommend it when the time comes for yourself or family members.)
It was the relying on others for help that resonated with me, in that moment waiting for physical therapy, preparing for those larger moments facing the larger issues of life and death.
Another synchronicity: I had ordered the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life from the library back in December when I was home in the pandemic shutdown with my arm in a sling from the shoulder fracture. But so many things got backed up during the pandemic and the film arrived just last week, as I was contemplating if no one shows up, we can help each other.
I trust/hope you already know the story: after years of helping other people own their own homes and live lives of dignity and pride, the good guy, George Bailey (James Stewart) is driven to suicidality by the evil machinations of the bad guy, Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore). (Shades of the struggles so many of us felt during the 2008 financial crises.) George’s guardian angel Clarence helps George through his crisis by showing him all the lives he has affected (even saved), and it’s the showing up of friends with their two dollars or thousands of dollars of contributions that helps George recover his resilience (and keeps him out of jail).
This showing up when things turn bleak is what is so key to our resilience and well-being as we (hopefully) re-emerge from this pandemic into our “new normal” lives again.
1. Take a moment to remember (m)any moments when you showed up to help someone else in a moment of distress, or they showed up for you. Picking you up from the ER (as my neighbors did when I fractured my shoulder and couldn’t drive for 8 weeks); buying your groceries when it didn’t seem safe to walk through the grocery store yourself (or paid for the groceries, too, when money got tight); took the kids for a long bike ride when you were ready to pull your (their) hair out.
2. Take another moment to reflect on how many moments of kindness, generosity, support people showed to other people throughout this pandemic, [See Showing Up for the People Who Are Showing Up – Pizza Delivered to Grateful ICU Health Care Workers in Brooklyn] not because people were paid or cajoled or guilted. Simply from the kindness innate in every human heart when we’re not frightened or stressed ourselves.
3. Take a third moment to identify additional people you could show up for now, in the coming week, and how you would do that. Taking an elderly friend who’s been shutdown in a nursing home for more than a year out for a spin, providing literacy tutoring for recent immigrants, helping friends financially to send their kids to summer camp and enjoy a few hours of respite from the past year’s round-the-clock child care and home schooling.
May the showing up, and the being helped by others, ease these wobbly times of transition as we re-inhabit our lives in this still uncertain world.