By: Cyndi Wilkins
When you learn, Teach. When you get it, Give.
(4 min read)
Maya Angelou was raised by her grandmother, who was the greatest influence on her life. Maya learned how to accept the environment of poverty and abuse she was brought up in. After being raped by her mother’s boyfriend, she withdrew from the world, becoming mute for many years.
Her grandmother took her under her loving wing, brought her back to life with her love of literature, and taught her to be fearless. Do not fear what has already happened, she would tell her, but rather find a way to turn your experience into something useful to give back to the world.
Not everyone is beautiful, smart, funny, rich, or successful, whatever your definition of that is, but everyone is as unique as their fingerprint and has something of great value to share with the world. For instance, children born into poverty tend to be at a higher risk of neglect and abuse, developing chronic health issues due to their circumstances and all the social stigmas associated with being poor.
But they also learn very valuable lessons in survival and humility. We all struggle at one time or another in our lives, and those born into struggle have a great deal to teach us about being vulnerable enough to ask for help when we need it and not being so attached to the material things in life.
We create more pain by comparing ourselves to others when we perceive them as having more than we do, rather than appreciating our own situation and the little things we tend to take for granted. When you don’t have much, you learn to appreciate and take good care of what little you have. Most importantly, loving and appreciating those who have stepped up to help and support you along the way.
We all remember that fateful moment in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” when George Bailey, a thoughtful savings and loan manager in the small town of Bedford Falls, experiences a huge financial crisis when his elderly Uncle Billy misplaces a sizable deposit George sent him to deposit at the bank which ended up being found and stolen by the greedy bank manager, Mr. Potter. What a jerk!
Terribly depressed and fueled by a night of heavy drinking, poor George feels he has failed himself, his family, and his community. He cried out that he wished he had never been born. Just as he was about to jump from a bridge into the icy water below, his guardian angel, Clarence, appeared, revealing to him just what his little community would have looked like if he had never been born.
For one thing, his brother Harry, whom George always felt was more successful than he because Harry was able to get out of the small town and fulfill his dreams, would not have survived childhood had George not been there to save him from drowning in an icy pond. Fortunately, Clarence showed up in the nick of time to pull George back from the brink. A ‘fairy tale’ ending for sure.
But life is not a fairy tale, and we don’t always notice when those “Clarence” moments come to teach us something valuable. For me, one of the most powerful moments was the passing of my father and the months leading up to it while I was caring for his needs and still trying to run a business.
Eventually, I had to put my life on hold and tend solely to him. By the time he passed, I was completely exhausted, depressed, and, quite frankly, not motivated or even interested in coming back to life.
I knew I would have to begin seeing clients again, but I really didn’t want to. I was so emotionally drained that I thought I had nothing left to give. But I knew these folks had been waiting patiently in the wings for a long time for me to return. I had to dig deep into the well and find a way to resurface. My first client was the last one I saw before I took time off.
I walked into my office and leaned over my client as she lay on the massage table. The moment our eyes met, she burst into tears. “I missed you!”
I felt a surge of pain rush straight through my heart and lodge itself in the back of my throat. It was choking me BACK to life if such a thing exists. It was my “George Bailey” moment, and this young lady was my Clarence.
“Oh, I’m sorry, hon!” I lean in to give her a big hug. “I gave your mom the name of another therapist for you to see while I was away.”
She looked me square in the eye, “I don’t want another therapist. I want you.”
She is one of my sickest patients and is very much in need of regular physical therapy. I knew if she had not been receiving therapy for the last several months, she must have been in terrible pain. The emotions that flooded me at that moment were so strong. I could barely catch my breath. They had to be that powerful to get my heart beating again. I felt so much love for her that it jolted me back to life.
I was suddenly overcome with gratitude for being in a position to help ease the suffering of others. I can honestly say that I love who I am and love what I do. I always saw myself as someone playing the role of helping others.
In doing so, it has provided me with a unique perspective on the obstacles that occur in my own life that I once found challenging to overcome. The obstacles have given me a deeper understanding and appreciation for those whose struggles far outweigh my own. Rather than seeing life as a series of events that happen TO me, I now reflect on them as opportunities happening FOR me in terms of growing into and recognizing the gifts I have to share.
Knowing how something is, is not the same as knowing how something “feels.” This must be what it’s like when the doctor reaches into your chest and holds your heart in their hands…caressing it, squeezing it, and coaxing it back to life.
A sudden gasp of air and you are breathing again, like being slapped on the ass the moment you are born. These are the moments of impact that bring us to life. None of these are possible without the power of love.
Teach them LOVE…