Have you ever been helped by your neighbor? And since we are called to love our neighbor, I consider my neighbor anyone who isn’t me (smile). In other words…doesn’t have to literally be my neighbor. One of my most embarrassing moments involved being helped by a neighbor.
It was several years ago on a hot summer day. I needed to go to the grocery store in the afternoon to get some ingredients for our dinner that night. It was bright and sunny when I left my house…and very hot. I knew that they were calling for afternoon thunderstorms, but that’s usually the case in Maryland on those hot, humid days. I didn’t think anything of it as I headed out because it looked perfectly fine outside.
I got to the store and as I was walking around collecting what I needed I heard one heck of a noise. It took me a minute to realize that noise was rain hitting the store roof. I knew it must really be coming down out there if I could hear it inside. It was loud! I finished up, ran my items through the self-checkout, and draped my four bags evenly onto my arms and headed for the door. When I stepped out of the sliding doors, I saw what looked like the end of the world. The sky was black. There was lightening, thunder, and buckets of rain coming down. The parking lot was already partially flooded. I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to get quite soaked getting to my car. But there was one problem…
I am not one to get pedicures. I don’t like people messing with my feet. But in the summer time you want to have cute feet for your flip flops and sandals, so I do my own work on my tootsies. This includes a dose of some thick lotion on occasion to keep my heels soft and callus free. This particular day was one of those occasions. Well when water hits said lotion…ones feet become quite slippery. I was wearing flip flops.
I stood on the edge of the curb waiting for traffic to pass so that I could make the dash to my car. I kind gentlemen stopped to let me cross. I tried my best with the heavy bags weighing down my arms to give him a little wave of thanks. I took a step off the curb into a stream of water and started to shuffle my way through the crosswalk. It became immediately apparent to me that the lotion was an issue. I felt like I was on ice and my feet were just slipping and sliding all over my flip flops. Then I made a grave error. I knew from past experience that the paint on the crosswalk itself was slippery when wet. I didn’t want to have double slippage so I did a little leap to try and land in-between lines.
This landed me in a very wide someone split-ish stance. As I tried to lift my back foot to close the gap in my legs, it was clear that I was not going to get enough of a grip on my flip flop to propel it forward. Remember that it is raining buckets. Not only are my grocery bags heavy with food, but they are now also filling with water. So there I am in front of this truck…in somewhat of a split, arms out to my side with grocery bags, and I am stuck. I have no traction on my feet with my flip flops. I turn my head and look at the gentleman who stopped and said, “I’m stuck!” with a big, cheesy grin on my face with my hair practically totally covering my face at this point because it is so saturated.
This poor man opened the door to his truck, sprinted over to me, put his hands on my elbows and hoisted me up until I could get my legs together enough to get some traction in my flip flops. I yelled thanks over the thunderous claps above us, and he ran back and jumped into his truck. I then carefully shuffled my way to my car. I was very grateful for that kind gentleman. It is now a running joke with my friends that I had better not ever leave the house in my flip flops if rain is in the forecast.
That man saw that I needed help. Instead of driving around me (because there was space to do so), he decided to help me out. I once saw a story on Facebook that has stuck with me. It’s related to the African tradition called UBUNTU. Ubuntu, in the Xhosa culture means: ‘I am because we are’. The story that I saw was told by anthropologist who was in Africa studying a tribe. He spent a lot of time with the children in the tribe and wanted to do something special when his time was coming to a close with them. He went into the city and bought lots of candy and fruit. He put everything in a big basket and placed it on the ground. He then drew a line in the sand and explained to the kids that it was the starting line. The finish line was the basket. He told them that whoever got to the basket first got to have the treats that were inside. He lined them up and when he yelled “go” he was surprised that all of the children held hands and ran to the basket together. When they made it to the finish line, they took the treats that were in the basket and distributed them evenly between themselves and sat to enjoy them. When the anthropologist asked why they had done that when one of them could have had all of the treats to themselves, one of the children answered, “How can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?”
Wow! The story brought me to tears. How different could the world be if we all adopted this philosophy? It’s a beautiful picture isn’t it? I wish everything I saw on social media was as uplifting and positive as this story. On one hand, I love platforms like Facebook because I get to keep in touch with friends and family that live far away. But on the other hand, I feel like social media is becoming the demise of our society. It could be a place that builds community, and in some ways it does, but I fear that the ugliness of it might outweigh the positive.
There are many marginalized groups, but of course because of what I do there is rarely a day that I’m not disgusted by something I see on social media directed at the LGBTQ+ community. It is especially disheartening when it comes from our leaders. There is so much misinformation and downright lies being broadcasted daily. Much of it comes from not being educated. If you are going to speak publicly about something, I find it repugnant to do so without knowing facts about the subject matter. Back in July, a former leader spoke at a summit where he said a lot about the LGBTQ+ community. One of the things he spoke about was puberty blockers regarding transgender kids. He admitted that he didn’t know what a puberty blocker was, but went on to say that they were bad. He had a lot to say about it actually…even though he admitted he knew nothing about it. That is incredibly dangerous.
Trigger warning…the next paragraph includes comments made against transgender people…
When these types of statements are made, like the one by this former leader, the comment section online is atrocious. I have seen people tell transgender people that they should kill themselves. I’ve seen them say that their mothers should have aborted them (and when you look at their profile they show that they are prolife). Really?? They are called “its.” It’s bad enough that adults see these comments, but I know kids that have seen them too. And sadly some have taken the writers advice and taken their lives. The sad thing is that I would say that most of these folks have never sat down and talked to a transgender person or a parent of a transgender child. Their message says…I know better who you are and that’s just not the case. And the statements made by this leader are then repeated over and over again creating more and more sickening comments.
Author Mitch Albom was on a podcast I was listening to during one of my morning walks. He talked about his writings and his family. He shared the story of adopting his daughter. She had a form of terminal cancer and at one point needed to be carried from place to place because she could no longer walk. He spoke about how he didn’t mind at all and that it was a reflection of his love for her. He said what we carry defines us. That is powerful.
There’s a great meme on social media with a line of skeletons standing next to each other. Each skeleton has a “title” under it.
I couldn’t find the meme, but I think my shadow says the same thing. We may look different on the outside…we may be different in what we believe…we may be different in who we love…but on the inside we are all human.
What if what we carried was love for our neighbor…love of community. What if we couldn’t be satisfied until everyone had what they needed (UBUNTU)? Instead of having the Us vs. Them mentality that some of our leaders would like us to have, let’s remember the story of the African children. Let’s be more careful about who we hate…because it could be someone we love. Let’s be more mindful of what we say or share online. Let’s keep an eye out for one another so that when we see someone slipping and sliding trying to hold on we can be the person that picks them up.
I am because we are…
Let’s look out for and love our neighbor because…