It’s hard to watch someone self-destruct. It can be even harder to watch someone leading a mentally, physically, and spiritually sedentary life, knowing there’s a great chance they will end up regretting the things they didn’t do, and choosing not to intervene.
A friend shared some personal stories with me this morning over coffee. It’s often surprising how relatable our experiences are with one another, when you really take time to stop and listen. We don’t do this often enough. All people have in common the pain of living, and the harsh realities of life. We all have the ability to tell, and listen, but sometimes refuse to do this because of fear of judgment and consequences. The simplest act of kindness, listening, can help immeasurably.
Something he said brought back memories of a particular moment in my life, something from over twenty years ago. An insignificant night I hadn’t thought of again until today. It was the dead of winter in Columbus, Ohio, and I was visiting some friends during the aftermath of an ice storm. We wanted to go to a local bar to see a band play, but because of the terrible road conditions (and, of course, we’d all been drinking), no one wanted to drive. Thick blue ice covered the city streets. So, we decided to walk to the show.
After my accident, ice was a major enemy; couple my instability on the slippery ground with drunkenness and it was a recipe for disaster. The bar was probably ten blocks away; I really didn’t want to walk, but told myself that if I didn’t drink any more during our evening out, I’d be fine. So we made it to the bar unscathed, and, of course, continued drinking as soon as we arrived. I justified it by thinking that although I knew it was making a bad situation even more dangerous, maybe my drunken lack of inhibitions would make walking on the ice easier.
I clearly remember taking a hard fall within moments of stepping out of the bar. My friends helped me up, as they had many times before. In total, I must have fallen full-force onto the ice at least thirty times on the walk home. Each fall battered my already fragile body. But, with the help of my friends, I laughed it off each time. The next day, I could barely move; my entire body was covered in colorful bruises and blood. The scene from the previous evening had played out many times before, and would play out many more times in the future. And my problem wasn’t because of my injury or the way I walked.
These memories make me appreciate how much I’ve changed, and also help explain why I’m dedicated to creating positive change in myself and others. It’s my turn to help someone get up off the ice.