There’s much that I can’t do, and there is also much that I can. The key is to remember choice. I can sit on my deck or in my yard in the morning or night, appreciating, savoring that I get to live in this place of beauty, listening to my fellow critters…peepers, birds, cicadas, squirrels… letting them be a symphony to my ear and a balm to my soul.
I can’t control other people’s negative, aggressive behavior (or ever understand why an elderly man in our neighborhood feels a need to ride around on his scooter with a nasty flag flying), but I can choose how I want to show up to this life that is mine. I can build up my own strength and health. I can write, speak, and teach, getting messages of compassion and fresh perspective and possibility out to the world. I can do what I can to “leave behind the world a better way” as the Avett Brothers say in “Salvation Song.”
I can create, find, and choose joy and peace. I can cultivate gratitude, wonder, and awe. I can do what I can to show up with mindful presence. I can choose who I am and how I want to be with the life I have been gifted. If you’d like to consider what a gift this day is, please take a few moments to watch A Grateful Day with Br. David Steindl-Rast.
While I can’t help my own son any longer, I can serve others, people who are someone else’s child. So, this week, I have taken steps to put together care bags to hand out to people who are homeless, who stand on the corners with scrawled signs, asking for some morsel of kindness. Instead of looking the other way (which I can’t any more, since I know any one of those people could have been my son on any given day), I now look for opportunities to look these people in the eye, to offer at least my love and a smile if I have nothing else to give. But I also want to give more. To extend a hand of kindness to someone who too many look away from, thinking “you can’t save everyone” or “why don’t they go get a job?” or who knows what else.
And so, I am compiling care bags with snacks, personal supplies, and resource cards for #Neverusealone and local supports for harm reduction and housing. Since Nate died, I’ve wanted to create cards with his picture on them. Cards that say “in loving memory of Nate, forever 29” and “I see you. You matter. Please take care. You are not alone.” Cards that list local numbers which might actually offer help when and if a person reaches out.
This week I created and ordered those cards. You too can download and print the Never Use Alone resources here and have them handy when you offer a little money or your kindness to a person in need. I put together a wish list on Amazon so that others could easily and quickly buy items to help me fulfill this mission. If you’d like to be one of those angels, I welcome your support and you can find that list here, or email me if you’d like to send a check or online payment for this purpose.
As I look at the cards with my son’s loving gaze and I pull together the items that I hope will brighten someone’s day, my heart feels full and grateful that I can serve in this way.
I can choose to live, even though Nate and so many don’t. I can live for them, to honor their lives. I can focus on what I can do and be, which will keep me moving forward rather than staying stuck in the agony of what I can’t do. I can do it honestly, authentically, imperfectly, with integrity that allows all of the human experience as part of it. I can continue to look for, notice, pause, and savor the beauty that is here every single day, rather than dwelling on the ugly that is much louder and for some reason highlighted by the news and social media. It seems more prevalent, but I doubt it really is.
I can do what I can to brighten another person’s day, simply by offering a smile or holding a door, saying “thank you,” letting someone in in traffic. It doesn’t have to be costly. And, when able, I can donate time or money, buy someone’s drive-through order without them even knowing (that’s so much fun!). There are opportunities for kindness every day.
I can do what I can to help others - to be kind, compassionate, generous, and loving. And, I can only hope that it makes a difference. I can’t save my son’s or anyone’s life, but maybe I can make a difference to someone. It’s certainly worth a try. Kindness and compassion are in short supply. Let’s do what we can. Let us be loving forces of light in this world. That’s who my son was, and it’s who I hope to be as well. Out of pain rises purpose and passion to do what I can.
A lot of what we think we can’t do may be things we simply haven’t learned yet or trained for (more of a “I can’t yet…” or “I don’t know if I can because I’ve never tried.”) We may surprise ourselves if we open to the possibility that maybe we can. Don’t close the door too soon. And for the things you know you can’t do, I invite you to look at what you can do instead. If you can’t help someone you love, who can you serve? If you can’t do one activity you wish you could, what can you do as an alternative? If you don’t have the financial means to do something, what might be a nice, affordable substitute? Shifting our focus from what we can’t do, to what we might be able to or what we can, can make a world of difference.