Sounds good but how do you do it?
I've always loved this song. It is inspiring. It reaches deep into our souls and validates how most of us see ourselves -- wise, empathetic, strong, creative --- a good friend. A wise parent. A generous person. However, are we? Really? All the time? Or do other less-noble feelings crowd out those virtues we value in ourselves -- and in others.
First responders, police, paramedics, airline stewards and stewardesses, teachers and preachers -- they are taught to secure themselves first before tending to victims, passengers, students or congregations. What good is a hand-up if both victim and rescuer fall into the same abyss?
So raising each other up isn't about our inherent worth or goodness. It's about all the other things -- are we strong enough? Smart enough? Understanding enough? Loyal enough? Generous enough? Compassionate enough?
I think that perhaps we aren't all the time. When we feel weak or cranky or stupid or confused or hateful maybe we only have enough strength to save ourselves. That's at least clear. But what if there are many in trouble and there are only have enough resources to save one person? Who will that be? Ourselves? A parent? A child? A friend? A neighbor? An enemy?
And since every situation is different, that means that we have to be constantly learning and growing and reaching. Are we strong enough? Do we have the right tools? Do we know how to address a life-threatening problem? Are calm enough? Can we problem-solve fast enough?
And then, is the other person worthy of your sacrifice?
There's another song that goes around from time to time, titled "The Snake."
Here are the words:
The Snake Al Wilson
On her way to work one morning Down the path alongside the lake A tender-hearted woman saw a poor half-frozen snake His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew "Oh well, " she cried, "I'll take you in and I'll take care of you" "Take me in, oh, tender woman (yes, come on in) Take me in, for heaven's sake (yes, come on in) Take me in, tender woman, " sighed the snake Now she wrapped him up all cozy in a coverture of silk And laid him by the fireside with some honey and some milk Now she hurried home from work that night, as soon she arrived Now she found that pretty snake she'd taken in had been revived "Take me in, oh, tender woman (yes, come on in) Take me in, for heaven's sake (yes, come on in) Take me in, tender woman, " sighed the snake Now she clutched him to her bosom, "You're so beautiful, " she cried "But if I hadn't brought you in by now you might have died" Now she stroked his pretty skin again and then kissed and held him tight But instead of saying thanks, that snake gave her a vicious bite (ooh) "Take me in, oh, tender woman (yes, come on in) Take me in, for heaven's sake (yes, come on in) Take me in, tender woman, " sighed the snake "I saved you, " cried that woman "And you've bitten me, even why? And you know your bite is poisonous and now I'm gonna die" "Oh, shut up, silly woman, " said that reptile with a grin "Now you knew darn well I was a snake before you brought me in" "Please take me in, oh, tender woman (yes, come on in) Take me in, for heaven's sake (yes, come on in) Take me in, tender woman, " sighed the snake Sighed the snake Take me in tender woman (Come on in you pretty snake, come on in) Snake, snake (yeah, come on in you pretty snake) Take me in, tender woman (come on in, yeah, yeah, yeah) Snake (come on in yeah, yeah, yeah) Source: LyricFind Songwriters: Oscar Brown Jr. The Snake lyrics © Carlin America Inc
So we suddenly realize there are consequences to kindness. Not every victim we rescue, will be glad we did. Not every beautiful creature will reward us for our good deed.
So the question is...do we raise those around us as a matter of course? Do we value our own valor even when it might lead to our own demise? And in those moments of judgment, how do we decide our actions?
Chances are that our ability to lift others might never be tested -- but what if? Is compassion the final most cherished piece of strength? Or is it just the reason we become strong in the first place?