Saturday, March 31, 2012

Take Responsibility for Each Other

“Be compassionate," Morrie whispered. And take responsibility for each other. If we only learned those lessons, this world would be so much better a place." Mitch Albom from Tuesdays with Morrie

When life gets crazy, we have a tendency to think we are alone. We are taught to be strong, tough, confident, and independent. We teach our children to stand up for what they believe in, and to find their path in life. These are good things, but I think we forget to teach our children that there are others on the path too, trying to find their way, realize their dreams, and discover who they are. Our paths are different, our experiences are unique, and our perspectives are extensions of all that we are, but we are connected.

Some of my favorite quotes about love, and discovering what really matters, come from the book Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. It amazes me that we can learn how to live from a man who is learning how to die.

I learned two things very early on. 1. Life is short. 2. We must try to express our love and appreciation each day. When I was six years old, my dad died of cancer. He was strong, big, invincible, and then, one day, like Morrie, he was sick. I watched him become weak, not in spirit, but in health. After his death, I watched my mom mourn, and knew that although I acted like a tough little girl, I was hurting. I realized that even the strongest of people needed others. I knew that I wasn't the only one who was sad. I learned that we all had a story to tell, and that it was my responsibility to be empathetic, aware, and to listen to the stories of others.

Nine days before he died, my dad created "Will's Wishes," a letter for his three older boys, two younger children, and his beautiful wife, my mom. Typed (not by him, as his fingers were not strong enough to hit the keys), and here for us to read any time, he talks about his family, his health, and of his love of Veterinary Medicine. He explained that he had to leave this world, not because he wanted to, but because his time to move on had come. He knew how difficult this tragedy was for all of us, and how important it was for us to stick together.

"We are here on earth to help and protect each other. Even if you're spread all over the world, take a little time out to call, take a little time out to visit, and take a little time out to be proud of your family. Love them... they deserve it... love each other, you deserve it, and remember most that your father loves you." Willis Vansell, December 18, 1982

These words are gifts... gifts from two men who were out of time... to us, who have a bit more. I reflect on these words... as a daughter, wife, sister, teacher, neighbor, mother of three amazing children, friend, and I realize that it is not always easy to take this advice... it is not always easy to take responsibility for each other while we are alive and healthy, before we reach our inevitable end. Sometimes we get stuck in a funk, in a fog so thick, so blinding, and so cold that we see no end in sight. Sometimes we wonder how in the world we can help each other when we can barely help ourselves. Sometimes we judge each other. Sometimes we compare ourselves to others. Sometimes we focus on competition, and of getting ahead. Sometimes we are afraid of being vulnerable. Sometimes we forget that we are friends. As Morrie and my dad advise: be compassionate, help each other, and take responsibility for each other. We all deserve it.