There is something about helping people that I find particularly gratifying. And today, I got an opportunity to do just that. It wasn’t a big deal. Just after I left my house to walk the dog and rounded the corner, a white sedan pulled up right alongside me. I glanced over and saw it was a teenager or young adult male at the wheel. I wasn’t sure why he had stopped, but as I continued to walk, I could hear him trying to repeatedly start the car to no avail. I couldn’t help myself. I had to see if there was something I could do. I turned around, walked back to the vehicle, and stood right outside his passenger window. He noticed me and rolled it down. “Are you out of gas?” I asked. “I think so,” he replied, as he tried several more times to get it to start. “Hang on!” I told him. I live right around the corner and I’ve got some back at the house in a gas can. I’ll bring it to you.” With that, I spun around, dog still in tow, and returned to the house in a hurry. It took less than a minute to grab it out of the garage, and then I hustled back to where his car had stalled and handed him the gas can. He poured a small amount of gas into the gas tank and then handed it back to me. I could tell there was still quite a bit left and asked him if he could use some more and he assured me he’d be fine, he just needed enough to drive back down the street and return home. He thanked me warmly, hopped in his car, started it up and off he went.
I love helping people, especially when there’s instant gratification. Honestly, that is the best. I’m always trying to see where I can help or make a difference, no matter how insignificant it may seem. And I think all of us have something inside that compels us to make a difference. I’ve been thinking all afternoon about the first time I helped someone. I am sure I did stuff as a kid but I cannot remember a single thing from that time in my life (as far as helping someone). Blame it on the hormones. Anyway, when I think back to the very first time when I did something that someone actually acknowledged made a difference, it really stuck with me. And it seemed so insignificant at the time. It was right after I joined the military, during boot camp. I think it was about 4 weeks in to the 6 week ordeal when I was requested to assist with ‘suicide watch’. When I reported, I was told there was a female in distress and that I had to stay in the room with her to prevent her from ending her life. This was definitely a first. I remember her vividly. She was sitting on the ground in the fetal position, her back against a wall. Her arms and legs were drawn up toward her chest. And her head was bowed, her forehead nearly touching her knees. She wept oh-so-softly while rocking back and forth.
We weren’t supposed to talk. I was just supposed to keep an eye on her. Although, I didn’t think there was much she could do since they took her belt and shoelaces. But after a while, I couldn’t help myself. To see someone in such anguish was really heartbreaking. So I stood up from the chair I was sitting on, sat down on the ground beside her, and quietly asked her what was wrong. I don’t remember everything that was said, but that eventually she did finally get to the heart of the matter. She told me she was gay. I continued to listen but it didn’t faze me. I didn’t understand why she was so distraught. Lots of people are gay. One of my dearest friends was/is gay. So what? Anyway, we talked for a while and by the end of the watch, she seemed at peace. Her tears had dried. Her shoulders had relaxed. Her arms were at her sides. I think she might have even smiled at some point. It really is such a blur. It was a long time ago. The thing is, I saw her out in formation a few days later and she was visibly happy. She called out my name and waved and was grinning ear to ear. And I think she broke formation and thanked me. The training instructors still hadn’t materialized so we were able to talk and move about. It kind of shocked me at first because she was so different than the person I had seen just days before. To the best of my recollection, I think I was a little embarrassed. I didn’t think what I did was anything to write home about. Anyway, after that I never saw her again. I assumed she graduated basic training and then went on to technical training from there, just as I did. I hope she’s had a happy life.
I certainly didn’t report to suicide watch with any agenda. I definitely didn’t plan on ‘saving’ anyone that day. I was just a kid myself, 18 years old at the time, trying to get through the ‘head trip’ called boot camp. But I don’t feel like I did anything special. I just treated her like a human being and tried to show her some kindness and compassion. I guess that’s what she needed. The outcome was really wonderful, but it was purely unintentional. Sometimes change can happen through innocent gestures. Sometimes a smile or acknowledging someone and asking them how they’re doing can make all of the difference. It does for me anyhow. There are days when I feel like I’m going to crack and a smile or a hug or just having someone there to listen gives me the strength to survive another day. But having good things happen without intent seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Most things, in order to be ‘saved’, require a great deal of intent and action. Lip service just isn’t enough. Actual deeds must be done to affect change. But, my God, where to begin? Holy crap! Everywhere you look, sh*t’s falling apart. I look at the state of my country and of this planet that we all inhabit and I just shake my head. Where is the humanity? Where is the kindness? Where is the compassion? Why are we all fighting one another? Seriously. Don’t we all want the same thing?
And on that note, here I go again. I think I’m going to have to deliver this one in segments. I just realized I probably bit off more than I can chew. But if I take small bites, maybe I can do it justice. It’s just like the saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” And no, I’ve never eaten an elephant before and don’t plan on it. But the saying seemed to work, so I used it. Anyway, I wish you well. And I hope to ‘see’ you again tomorrow.