Today my aunt related to me a childhood story she had heard from a co-worker. It went a little something like this:
“As a child, [he] was told by [his] Mother to share his Halloween candy with a child from the neighborhood who had been too sick to go trick-or-treating for the holiday. Struck by the prospect of losing [his] precious chocolates to some greedy kid who hadn’t earned them, [he] immediately set about devouring as much of the Halloween candy as possible. The next morning, [he] was terribly ill for having eaten so much candy in a short period of time.”
While the tale was imparted to me as an explanation of why people feel the desire to hoard their belongings, I took a very different message from the story.
To me, it represented a myriad of things. Not just selfishness. Not just an utter lack of empathy with a sick child. It showed that in acting strictly in one’s own interest, self-harm occurs. So focused was this child on maintaining ownership of all that he had – well in excess of anything he could have needed – he did himself direct harm, rather than share with another human being.
I think – at some point – each of us will experience a similar urge to gather to ourselves what we’ve earned and to say “to Hell” to anyone who wants any part of it. But, on those occasions, I believe that we are harming ourselves far more than we are harming others.
"Whatever we possess becomes of double value when we have the opportunity of sharing it with others." - Jean-Nicolas Bouilly
I bring this to the fore today, because I frequently see others who are on the journey to good health … and they begin engaging in toxic behaviors from the past, and close themselves off from everyone else on the same road.
Our experiences – our struggles – to achieve our goals are like the cobblestoned streets of Italy or Spain with their many subtle changes in texture and color. Each of the stones represents a different type of stone compiled by different minerals in different quantities. In a similar vein, each of us brings to our experiences new ideas and different lessons which can benefit others – and ourselves – if we but remain involved in and committed to sharing our (mis-)adventures.
Worse than not helping others who are struggling, when we hide our own misfortunes and pitfalls from prying eyes, we do not give others the opportunity to help us find our feet.
"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decerases by being shared." – Buddha
Is it embarrassing to admit that we went over our calories – a lot? Yes. Is it mortifying to confess to the world of Strangers that we gained instead of losing? Yes. Is it difficult to articulate that we want to strangle the next relation who politely offers to take us out “for some real food” at a fast food chain? Yes. Is it possible that anything we say can, and will, be used against us in the Court of Public Opinion? Obviously.
But, we need to reach out for help when we need help. We need to offer a helping hand to others when they need help. We need to realize that this journey affects more than one selfish person. It affects us as individuals. It affects our romantic partners. It affects our children. It affects our grandchildren. It affects our siblings, parents, grandparents, friends, frienemies, and strangers from across the globe. Our words can harbor that one tiny piece of information that we never dared to dream would bring another human being back from the precipice of disaster or failure. Our silence could doom someone who may only have needed one kind word on a disastrous day in order to rally and keep moving forward.
I leave myself open each time I write. I eviscerate my own ego, because I know that the greatest changes I have made within myself, have come from others who spoke, listened, and/or wrote a few short words which forever changed the course of my life. Words which resulted in me surviving what would otherwise have been a medical death sentence. I encourage each of you to do the same.
Part One: Life
"If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain."
- Emily Dickenson