Heal the World

February 25, 2013

Helping others can be a healing experience, particularly when you’re feeling blue.  Here’s a little blue stream-of-consciousness post for you.

A few weeks ago, I was taking a walk with my mom and my dog, and we came across a duck-ish bird limping down the street. It was dark and cold. The bird would take a few steps down the street and then lay in the road.  The dead end street headed toward the ocean, where we usually enjoy the view for a moment, but we never made it there, because I decided that we must rescue this animal from certain death.  The short version of the rest of the story goes like this:

I took the bird to my parents’ house after catching it with my jacket (which I took off in 30 degree weather :/), put it in a cat carrier, took it home, and in the morning brought it to a wildlife clinic an hour away from my house.  I went on vacation after that, and when I returned, I got a call from the wildlife clinic telling me that “your bird” is ready to be returned to the wild.  Here are a couple pictures of him on the way to freedom:

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I’ve been struggling with some minor seasonal blues, and this made my day – my week.  I felt so capable and calm, and on top of things.

And it felt good.

I think as long as there is good in a person, helping feels good, and will make people want to do it more.

I see it every day in my clients with Alzheimer’s; I say, “Can you hold these [maracas] for me?”  They almost always say yes, even after I have asked them if they want to play an instrument, and they decline because they “won’t be good at it.”  When I frame it in a way where the client is able to help me, they are immediately ready and willing, even if they “won’t be good at it”. For some reason, they are willing to risk [perceived and imagined] failure and humiliation in order to help someone by holding maracas.  I might also add that these usually end up being the people who most surprise me with their rhythmic abilities – but I digress…

When a person has lost so much, they are still able to naturally help – to give.

In the psych unit, when patients help and support each other, it is heart-warming, and so telling of human instinct.  When there’s a patient who is having a particularly difficult time, others will often encourage and prompt that person, even when they themselves are in the midst of turmoil and sadness.

The phrase, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” is something that comes to mind when I think of a dear friend of mine who was abused as a child and now has made it part of her own journey and healing process to help others find peace in their own similar experiences through a blog talking about pain, vulnerability, relationships, and spirituality.

It is incredibly rewarding to help others, because we can see ourselves in the people we’re helping.  Because we would want to be helped. Empathy is a powerful thing.

I lead songwriting exercises in some of my groups.  A few times, I have asked clients what makes them feel good/happy as the “theme”.  “Helping others,” is a popular response. In the psych unit, we talk about coping skills sometimes, and “helping others” often shows up on the list as well. We are hard-wired to help others – maybe because we all have weaknesses.  If we are able to help someone – whether it’s helping an elderly person with a door, a busy colleague with some papers she dropped, returning a cell phone or wallet (intact) to it’s rightful owner, rescuing a limping bird, or helping someone find peace within themselves out of trauma  – it can give us strength.

Finding strength (through whatever journey) allows us to do remarkable things, and it can change us.  It can change the whole story.

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