October 28th, 2020
Here is good news. We are not responsible to cure the ills of the world. As Mother Theresa said, “if you can’t feed all of the hungry, at least feed one.” We are responsible only for what we have.
We are not responsible to be psychic contortionists, pretzeling ourselves beyond our capacity, to do what others think we should do. Instead we do what we can, give what we have, invest our very being in the welfare of others.
We are not here to save the world. In the words of Lilla Watson, an aboriginal visual artist and women’s activist, ”If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
Is this the key to sharing ourselves with others? We know how much we don’t know. When we give ourselves to others, we are not the expert—they are. Our best offering is a loving heart and a listening ear. We leave the judging to those who have all the answers and live a perfect life . When we share ourselves we offer only to be present.
As parents, we often wonder why our grown-up children don’t take our advice and learn from our mistakes. I am suddenly struck that my parents thought the same thing about me.
If we are reaching down to someone from our privileged perch, we can offer answers to all of our neighbors’ problems, but not when we share. When we share ourselves we share our friend’s confusion and ambiguity as well as their clarity of purpose and their resolve that they find their own answers for themselves.
Pious platitudes and pat answers do not soothe an aching heart. When we share ourselves we do not condescend; we don’t hold ourselves up as a positive example. As English author Catharine Aird wrote, “If you can’t be a positive example, you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.” Our hurting friends will be more inspired by our horrible warning than by our self-inflated me-first example.
When we share ourselves, we are not sharing our wisdom or our time; we are not just sharing our material goods. We really are sharing the essence of ourselves. We offer our very being to those for whom we would be present.
Nothing that we can GIVE to another person compares to what we can BE for another. Only when our life is intertwined, entangled, braided together with another’s life can we truly share ourselves with that person. Only our presence—our being—makes a positive difference in another’s life.
In this pandemic, our world has become smaller. We are constrained to keep a physical distance from one another. What an opportunity hides in the horrors of these times! We can concentrate our energy on loving a few intimately, of intertwining ourselves with those who can open themselves to that, and thereby discover what it means to be present with someone, to truly share ourselves.
At the same time, our globe has shrunk sufficiently that most of us can see that we are of one blood with everyone on earth. Languages, appearances, skin color, mental capacity, traditions may all be different, but similar emotions connect us all. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see our commonality with all creatures great and small. What an opportunity to really relate to all those the world over as neighbors! What a joyous time to discover who we really are and then share that connection in spirit worldwide.
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