As I look outside to divert my attention from the news for a few minutes, I am reminded that through the sh*tty moments of life, there are new beginnings and awakenings. There are lessons to learn. There are habits to shed. I never realized how true this was until I used fertilizer in my neglected garden and grew fruits and vegetables for the first time. I went through the loss of my childhood friend, emotional traumas and then my Dad to cancer to finally understand that the eb and flow of life gives us an essential opportunity to pause to reflect, grow and expand our limiting mindsets. Something as simple as manure in your garden can promote the growth of new beginnings, and we can all use a do-over sometimes.
COVID19, a pandemic, senseless deaths, police brutality, racism, chaos in the White House, and the list goes on. I woke up in the past few months. I had an awareness that everything from the coronavirus to the quarantine and then the senseless, horrific death of George Floyd and so many other black people was a wakeup call for me and the world.
We can do better. We can do better because we need to be better. We need to have compassion, kindness, and empathy. We need to do better and not just talk about what we will do. We need to act.
We need to love one another like we did when we were little, and we never cared about someone’s race and ethnicity. What happened to us along the way? I think we reverted as a society or never changed at all.
One of my earliest memories of living in New York and seeing the ultimate act of kindness was when I was about 9 years old. In seconds, my mother suddenly turned into a superhero right on the busy streets of Manhattan. She was a full-on superhero minus the cape. If she had seen a super cool cape at Bergdorf Goodman, I am sure she would have owned a few, but her calm and precise thinking was all she needed in what happened. My mother and I were walking around the streets of New York one afternoon when we witnessed a horrible accident. A car had run into a woman riding her bicycle; it was the early ’70s, and no one wore helmets and protective gear. I seem to remember the girl was wearing a long, flowing skirt.
We heard a crash, and people huddled around the scene. When we got there, my mother pushed through the crowd and found the twentysomething girl lying on the ground; she had an enormous puncture wound from her kickstand. I will never forget what I saw, and I will stop there with the gory details. Nothing fazed my mother though. She sprang into action, directing someone to call 911 and instructing the crowd to give us space. She commanded the situation with strength and clear headedness.
By then, a bigger crowd was standing around and staring, and Mom was talking to the very scared and badly injured girl. Mom knew exactly what to do and was incredibly calm under pressure. She was Superwoman, and I was her assistant. “Go across the street to the drugstore; get me gauze, Betadine, and bandages right away!” she told me. Off I ran across traffic, waving my hands to get across the street. I entered the pharmacy and breathlessly told the employee what was going on right outside the window; they could see the large crowd and chaos. No one ever asked me for money. They gave me everything I asked for, and I ran back across the street.
My mother meticulously bandaged the poor girl’s badly injured leg. The wound was extremely deep and horrifying. When the ambulance arrived, my mother explained what had happened and she assured the girl she would be okay. The paramedics took over and lifted her into the ambulance by stretcher. I was trembling at what I had just seen. My mother had been the only one with a plan. She was calm, focused, and attentive to the feelings of this scared girl. What she taught me that day stayed with me forever. Most people gawk and do nothing. She was a superhero in my eyes, willing to do whatever she could for a stranger.
I grew up believing that this was what I was supposed to do—to help anyone in a time of need. I value this lesson every day and have used my own Superhero skills on numerous occasions. The truth is you can do the same. We all can.
There is so much to learn from this awakening. We need to stop looking the other way, when we know what we see is wrong, unjust, unethical, and unfair. We need to stop the bystander mentality while holding our phones up to capture horrific injustices and we need to act. We are in a time of self-awareness, a time to peel back our layers and look at our belief systems and what we value and what we do not. We need to stand up to racism and stop the same patterns that perpetuated for hundreds of years. We need to talk to strangers, stand up for strangers and help one another in a time of crisis.
THIS is a time to wake up. We needed this awakening. For the longest time, our priorities were off, our connections were primarily with our phones and less on human contact, and our kindness and empathy meters were running on empty. This is our wake up call and we can’t hit the snooze button anymore.