Sunday, July 16, 2017

You Lift Me and I'll Lift Thee

"Thee lift me and I'll lift thee, and we'll ascend together." I have found a lot of truth in this Quaker proverb the past few years as I have dealt with the crippling effects of POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and autoimmune disease, yet have been lifted by countless friends and neighbors.

One of the things that has been especially hard about my illness is all the things I miss out on, especially with my kids and family.  It is hard to stand by and watch life happen without me.  Just a few months ago my husband took our kids to visit his dad over spring break.  He sent me pictures of them all playing happily at the beach.  I was glad to see them having a good time, but it still hurt my heart to not be there making those memories with them.

A sweet friend of mine, knowing that I was home alone for the week, asked if she could come visit me.  It was a great visit and truly helped to lift my spirits.  What amazed me even more about this act of kindness is that my friend is currently battling cancer.  In fact, it was her last “good” day before her next round of nauseating, life-sucking chemo—and she chose to spend her precious time with me!  Oh, how much that meant to me!

As I have spent the last couple of years fairly homebound and bed ridden, I have been consistently impressed by the number of amazing people there are in this world that are so giving of their time, talents, and selves.  I’m amazed at the level of generosity and thoughtfulness of others.  One of the many things that my time in bed has made more infinitely clear is how much we need each other.  We weren’t put on this earth to live a solitary life, but to serve and to be served. 

Everyone has struggles and heart ache.  Everyone experiences loss-- whether it be death of a loved one, poor health, struggling relationships, loss of job, home, or financial security, or something else entirely.  We don’t all have the same problems (thank Heavens!), but that doesn’t mean we can’t show compassion and empathy for others, no matter what they are going through.

A comment I frequently hear from others is, “Well you’re stuck in bed, so I have no right to complain about my problems.”  Not true!  We all have difficulties we are struggling with, and we can all use support. 
Photo cred: Stephanie Ann Portraits
This life is not a competition to see whose problems are the most difficult.  Just like one person’s good fortune in no way diminishes another’s blessings, one person’s trials, does not make another’s less hard or frustrating for them.  And just because someone’s problems may seem minor to one, does not mean that they aren’t a big deal to the person experiencing them.  (I have to often remind myself of this when it comes to my kids and the struggles they are dealing with that may seem inconsequential to me). 

Linda K. Burton said, “We are here to help, lift, and rejoice with each other as we try to become our very best selves…. There is so much more happiness to be had when we can rejoice in another’s successes and not just in our own.  When we seek to ‘complete’ rather than ‘compete,’ it is so much easier to cheer each other on.

Being the beneficiary of so much compassion has caused me to reflect on my own deeds.  When I was healthier and able to do more, did I?  Was I as aware of those around me that were in need of lifting?  And now that I am less capable of physically helping others, are there still things I can do to be of service?  Since I have been sick, I feel like I have become more keenly aware of others sorrows and needs, yet I often feel so powerless to help.

So, how can I help others when I can barely help myself?

Many have shown me that I don’t always have to physically do something in order to help.  Sometimes a note, a text, or a quick visit has had the greatest impact in buoying my spirits.  Just knowing that someone else cares can make a world of difference.  

Meals, treats, and gifts are certainly a happy surprise (and I have been so amazed at the generosity of others), but I’ve also learned that it’s more important to do something than to do nothing.  When you’re not able to send a meal, at least send at text.  When you don’t have a gift to give, write a card.

There have been so many times that I’ve had a rough day and gotten an encouraging text or note from a friend.  I’m especially impressed with those friends that have been consistent.  Even being surrounded by people, trials can be extremely lonely.  It means so much to know that you haven’t been forgotten.

Knowing what a difference it has made for me, I have tried more earnestly to listen to that still small voice.  If there is someone on my mind, it is probably for a reason.  Even if I don’t have a great piece of inspiration to provide, I can still reach out to say, “Thinking of you today.  Hope you are doing well!” 

I have also become much more emotive with my friends and loved ones.  I commonly tell my friends how much I love and appreciate them.  Previously I may have worried about sounding too corny or cheesy.  I don’t care about that now.  Everyone deserves to hear how incredible they are.

Words can be a powerful tool for good!  In an effort to highlight the good deeds of others, thank those that have been great examples to me, and put forth more positivity into the world, I started doing a “Hero of the Week” post every week (or so) on my Facebook page.  I have loved openly sharing my appreciation for others in my life and hopefully lifting them as well.

Another form of service that I have come to rely heavily on is prayer.  I may not be able to physically help others, but I can always, ALWAYS pray for them.    

Though I have learned it anew, I first realized this lesson several years ago.  My twins were born premature.  Those two babies completely rocked our world (in both the good and bad sense).  After coming home from the NICU they quickly became colicky and would cry for hours on end.  Within a couple months both also developed RSV (a respiratory infection).  They were miserable and so were we.  I remember wondering how two tiny human beings could be such an incredible blessing and such a trial at the same time.  The feedings, diaper changing, fruitless attempts at calming, and sleepless delirium became our new norm.  We went into survival mode, with little time to even shower or clean house.  We could barely care for ourselves and our kids, let alone help anyone else. 

At this same time, in fact just a few weeks before the twins were born, my mom, who lived 200 miles away, was diagnosed with breast cancer and started the rigorous treatments of chemo, surgery, and radiation.  It was heartbreaking for both my mom and I to watch each other struggle from afar and be able to do very little to help the other.  I longed to be in Idaho helping my mom and she longed to be in Utah holding the twins and helping me.  It was at this time that I truly realized the power of prayer for others—and that no matter what my own abilities are (or are not) to help someone else, I can always pray for them.  If I couldn’t be there with my mom, I could at least pray for angels to attend her, and I know she did the same for me.   

I could fill pages and pages with names of people that have helped me and my family the last several years (and I doubt I could ever do an adequate job sharing my gratitude, but if you are one of those people—Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!).  The charity, kindness, and generosity of others has set a beautiful example to me of how to pay it forward.  

No matter our circumstances in life, we can recognize those around us that are struggling and work to achieve the proverb, “Thee lift me, and I’ll lift thee, and we’ll ascend together.”

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