A while back, I saw a new substance abuse counselor post something on a social media site indicating he loved “saving lives.” It took me back to 1998 when I first graduated college and moved to Washington D.C. and thought I was off on an adventure to save some lives of my own. It was frustrating when my magical efforts to save others wasn’t working! As much sweat, time and tears I put into things, I wasn’t saving anyone. I (not quick enough) found out I wasn’t there to save anybody. I wasn’t capable of saving others, nor was anyone capable of saving me.
I was having my own kind of hard time back then at 22 years old. These were moms and dads and kids who had traveled great lengths to safety, had seen relatives murdered, had escaped political wars, had lived and learned in basements their whole entire short lives. I was living out of Ohio for the first time in my life. What did I know and what did I have to offer that would save a single soul? I wasn’t going to save a damn thing. But what I did learn, what that I could bear witness while someone was saving themselves. I could be eyes to watch, ears to listen, arms to hold and comfort, and in all honesty, a car to transport. I could provide support, I could provide love and compassion. That was what my clients back then were looking for, and honestly, it’s what they’re still looking for today, 20 years later.
As a young woman living in a transitional housing program for immigrants and refugees, those folks taught me more than I could ever teach them. They showed me the world, and fed me their food. And shared the stories of their journey and the beliefs they felt were worth fighting, and ultimately escaping, for. Twenty years later, I’m so grateful for that humbling lesson. It hit me hard when I was struggling myself and was always looking for someone to save me. If I was paying more attention to that universal lesson, I may have gotten busy sooner saving myself. But I did….eventually. And today, when I see a post like that young man’s, I smile and think he will learn his own lesson when it’s time. That’s what this path is all about. Because we’re all just walking each other home. Be safe on the road out there. And if you haven’t figured out who is saving who, just watch. It’ll show up, the lesson.