At a particularly low point a few years back my husband gave me a book called The Power of the Possible. I hadn’t said that I wanted it; in fact I hadn’t said I wanted anything. In the knowingness of two people who share a home and a family, however, he knew. He didn’t know what I needed, but he knew I needed something.
“Here,” he said, “I thought you’d like this.”
I looked at him confused. Then irritated. Then grateful. As he took our boys outside to play I sat in my own muck and read this book for about an hour before I found myself wondering, What if, through the lessons of the impossible, I found the possible?
The book was a good read and it gave me some important perspective, but it wasn’t the book, itself, that changed things for me; it was his gesture. It never is the thing that gives us the perspective we need, the permission we crave, the revelation we long for…what gives us those gifts is the feeling we get from experiencing what we really do want: to be seen and understood, valued and taken care of. In short, to be loved.
Even better than the feeling of being loved is the feeling we get from looking into the eyes of another and giving that gift to them. The boomerang effect of giving love and receiving love, giving love and receiving love…Those moments, those intimate moments however brief they may be, change everything.
If that’s the case, I wonder what would happen if we started worrying less about what we don’t have and start giving more of what we do. What if we all did one extra something that served that greater good just one more time every day? What if we smiled at someone passing us on the street, if we picked up the can from the gutter, if we paused at feet of a dog waiting dutifully for its owner for no other reason than to pat his head and say hello? If each of us did one more thing each and every day, what could it do?
It could heal the world.
The laws of nature and humanity are screaming at us to pay attention, only we’re so overwhelmed that instead of facing their lessons with courage, we’re turning away in fear. In no time are people (and the environment) more honest than when they are in desperate pain and right now the glare of truth feels like just too much to face.
However, ask any alcoholic how running away from her pain is working out. Ask any downtrodden spouse in a miserable marriage how avoiding the important conversations is working out. Ask any worker stifled by a job he hates but still living in fear of losing that job how things are working out. When a mirror is put in front of any of those people—indeed when a mirror is put in front of any of us—we can plainly see that escape and avoidance and hiding in fear does nothing but exacerbate that pain that is already haunting us.
So why not throw off deception in favor of truth? Why don’t we face the realities of our individual and collective lives and figure out how to create solutions to what ails us?
Because we’re afraid it’s impossible, that’s why.
Guess what? We’re wrong. Perhaps it’s my trade as a teacher; perhaps it’s my nature as a sensitive and spiritual woman; perhaps it’s just the streak of stubbornness that comes with my culture. Whatever it is, I know the truth. We need to turn to our fears with courage, grace, and integrity, and say two words.
And from there, all things really are.