Anxiety courses through me when more than one person needs me at the same time. For instance, not long ago, two very close friends were having a personal crisis at exactly the same moment. One of them was texting me. The other was calling. It all went down on a night that I usually reserved to do fun adventures with my kid.
I couldn’t have an adventure with my kid and be there for both friends. I had to choose, and I felt horrible about that decision. It seemed no matter what choice I made, it didn’t feel right because there would be at least two people who I couldn’t help.
I’m guessing you’ve had evenings like that as well.
I wish there was a solution that would allow one person to be in three or more places at once. There isn’t. Instead, what I tell myself in such moments is this, “Make ripples where you are at.”
A ripple is a beautiful gift, one that we all have to offer one another. What’s even more beautiful about ripples is this: they tend to spread. You offer your full attention to one person and help one person through a crisis. That person feels better and now has the capacity to help someone else. You feel better, too, giving you more energy to create more ripples.
Every one of us is capable of creating ripples in the giant pond that we call life. In every moment of every day, we can stick our finger into the pond and leave behind a beautiful ripple for someone else to enjoy. Often creating ripples is as easy as smiling in someone’s direction, listening, or just being present. You don’t have to solve someone’s problem. You only have to let someone know that you care. Every time you create a ripple, you are saying, “You’re not alone. I’m here with you.”
What we can’t do, however, is stick our finger into every part of the pond at once. Trying to be there for three people at the same time is like standing at one end of a pond and wishing you could make ripples at the other end. It just can’t happen.
Yet what can happen is this: while you are making beautiful ripples in one part of a pond, someone else will come along and make ripples somewhere else. In reality, we don’t have to be there for everyone who needs us at the same moment. If we choose just one person and give that person our full attention, the other people in our life will still carry on. They won’t drown. They might figure out their crisis on their own. Or someone else might help them through it. Or they might wait patiently for us to walk over to their side of the pond.
Alisa Bowman is a journalist, book collaborator, and author of several books, including Project: Happily Ever After and the The 7 Day Slim Down. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.
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