Sometimes I wonder about my strong urge to “save” people, to help them, about why I feel it, and what I’m supposed to actually do about it. Sometimes it just feels like a curse or a symptom. I remember as a teenager taking a course to become a lifeguard. They taught us how to carry someone to shore or a dock. We started practicing with a nice calm person who sometimes even helped us save them. Then we moved up to someone who just went limp. It was hard to carry that dead weight, but in the water and with momentum, it was still doable. Then we moved up to the worst case, the struggling victim – someone so panicky that they seemed hell-bent on drowning.
The goal was not only to get them to shore, but to stay alive in the process. Active near-drowning victims seem almost eager to take you with them. In your mind, you know it’s just panic, but the heart can’t always tell, and certainly the water will fill up your lungs whether you take their frenzy personally or not. It’s easy, they warned us, to sink, to drown, under that kind of strain. We were told we may someday have to decide to get clear, to save ourselves. To let go. It was a very tough lesson, and I’m so glad to say that I never did have to pull anyone from the water for real.
Anyway, through the years, I went on to try saving people in all sorts of useless and honestly destructive ways. All my best intentions did not ever manage to save one person, and hurt more than they helped on more than one occasion. Of course, this doesn’t change who I am at my core. I want to help people, just like I’ve always wanted to help people.
These days though, I know I can’t save anyone. I can help, maybe, I want to try. I really just want to teach a kinder way of living in this world. I’ve learned so much, I want to teach people who are suffering in the ways I have. I’m all good intention still. But I’m not really up for the task of dragging anybody kicking and screaming into the calm. I know if I try I will probably go under like I have before. I fear more than most anything becoming what it is that I most want to stop, ferociously trying to drown in ugliness even when the shore is in clear view.
Living as I do in North Carolina USA in 2016, it’s hard not to notice the tremendous amount of hatred being tossed around like it’s just a harmless baseball. This is on all “sides” of any argument. It’s become commonplace. People respond to opinions with death wishes, and explain that “they deserve it.” Really, people deserve to DIE? Now, I would say I don’t care what side you’re on, but I do. I simply won’t pretend to embrace the laws created here to discriminate and disenfranchise. But if you disagree with me, I still think you have value. How could it be otherwise? That’s the thing about kindness, you can’t just decide who deserves it. If you really mean it, you’d better really mean it. At least I’ve come this far.
I wish I knew how to heal this place, and these angry angry people. I wish I could just gently pull them to shore and let them stand in the sunshine. But so far the only way I’ve managed to save myself is by letting go. It’s not that I don’t have strong opinions. I really do. It’s not hard to figure out what they are I hope. But I can’t change anyone, and arguing is just adding more ugly to a very ugly stew. I find myself avoiding social media, ignoring friends who want to fight, hiding it all from my view. I post pictures of dogs and quotes from the Dalai Lama. I click Hide and Unfollow, and move quickly to something else. Maybe I’ll get strong enough someday to get back in the water and try harder to make a difference. For now though, maybe this whole next year, I’m just going to try to stay dripping on the shore, waiting for the sunshine.