I grew up in a religiously, culturally and gastronomically Jewish home in Willingboro, NJ which is a suburb of Philadelphia. Our family went to synagogue weekly, practiced holiday rituals, lit the candles on Friday night, but kept kosher only when my paternal grandmother lived with us. I attended Hebrew school until I was 16. […]
After a long weekend of doing what I love, teaching and spending time with kindred spirits/family of choice, my brain was a bit fried, so I asked wise friends for writing prompts. Two came through that were aligned. The first was from Ruth Anne Wood who is a coach, writer, artist and massage therapist. She suggested: “Becoming the artist and human you were meant to be by serving others.”
Sherry Kopp Darr is a therapist/addictions counselor who offered: “Using the old saying that we have two hands, one for helping others, and one for helping ourselves.”
I imagine before coming to Earth this time around, the disembodied soul that I was asked for an assignment that my skills be available to help others become their best selves. At an early age, I spoke; according to my mother, “You started talking at six months and hadn’t stopped since.” She said it with a wink and nod, glad for my communication skills. I grok that she was right. I somehow knew the right things to say to calm fears and encourage love. I have long been a go-to person, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on and a safe place to land for family and friends. I revel in that role and sometimes find it exhausting. I was speaking with my cousin Jody Rosenblum about it today since she too is a social worker/therapist who admits to needing shields up as well. We agreed that our job as counselors was to hold space and bear witness to the challenges, pain, and struggles of our clients and not to feel responsible for fixing their broken places. When I had hubris in excess, I erroneously believed I needed to practice savior behavior. It was wearying and ultimately a futile practice since people will do what they wish, no matter what anyone else advises them to do. Who am I to take their experiences from them?
I also began to use my creativity in childhood to pen poetry and prose; keeping journals and writing short stories. It was encouraged by my parents and teachers and it soon became my lifeblood. I can’t NOT write. It feeds my soul and gives my overflowing monkey mind a place to put the jumble of letters. One of my friends told me many years ago that I ‘paint words pictures’. Good to hear, since my graphic art abilities are not as active. Some of what I write puts money in my bank account and some comes through just to be read as a gift to the world. The feedback that I receive tells me that it lands in people’s hearts and helps them to view circumstances from an alternate perspective and unsticks them.
Know that I am not totally altruistic, which is where Sherry’s idea comes into play. When I was growing up, my parents were generous volunteers in our community. Some of it was for our synagogue, some at the local fire department (my father) and some for the hospital (my mother). She also helped as a room mother when my sister and I were in elementary school and with our Girl Scout troops and our swim team. The additional message my father communicated was that “Charity begins at home.” I took that to mean he wanted to be sure our needs were met first. I have forgotten that from time to time as I have endeavored to be all things to all people. When that has happened, I succumbed to illness and exhaustion so I have become more adept at filling my own cup, in part so I can continue to do what comes naturally and not just what is expected, or rather, what I have taught others to expect from me.
Some of what I do to be of service, such as FREE Hugs serves me too. As someone who thrives on touch, it has become a necessary activity. Sure, it puts smiles on people’s facing, compelling them to feel less alone and more connected to the world around them, but it provides a feedback loop. As much as I enjoy offering hugs, it really is a shared experience. 100% me, 100% the other person. Since I began doing it in earnest following the heart attack five years ago, I can say with certainty that incorporating it into my cardiac rehab saved my life. The logo for my group called Hugmobsters Armed With Love is a heart with hands reaching out. It is a potent symbol for what happens when we embrace the world full out. It is my he(artistry), my passion and purpose in this lifetime.
Photo credit: Pixabay