I'm Trying To Become An Actively Helpful Person
On a recent trip to Aspen, I took a day to ski by myself. It was the second day of the trip, and I was determined to ski at my own pace and soak up the experience to the fullest.
I’m coasting easily down a green slope, practicing the subtle turns that keep my speed down, able to focus on the beauty of the landscape around me. I’m feeling good until I hit a steep connecting trail that is less groomed than the one I was previously on. Maintaining my speed becomes increasingly difficult, maintaining control even more so.
I’m not alone here. I see ahead on the hill a girl go down hard, her poles flying and one of her skis popping off. She stays down, sitting and looking around her as if she has no idea how she's gotten there. She looks lost and possibly scared.
I think about pulling up next to her, asking how she is, offering to get her pole for her. I consider assisting in getting her back into her skis. I want to help her. Instead, I hesitate. My fear gets the better of me, my thoughts rushing at me, faster and faster, gaining speed as I barrel down this hill.
“What if I try to stop to help her and I fall? What if I get hurt? What if I crash into her while I am trying to help? What if I make the situation worse?
What if I can’t do anything at all?”
Instead, I ski past. I know immediately it's not the right decision. I pause a distance below her, and from this vantage point I realize I have invoked that same mantra that I have used time and time again when the universe throws me a curve ball that I refuse to hit, or to catch, or to even acknowledge:
Someone else will do it.
Someone else will invite the new person to join our lunch. Someone else will move to another seat on the plane so the family can sit together. Someone else will shift their yoga mat to the side to accommodate the person who rushed in late. Someone else will help the lost elderly woman find her way home.
Someone else, someone else, someone else.
I look the other way.
I put my head down, pretend I can't see what's going on, as if this will somehow reduce my accountability. Making myself unavailable before I’m even asked for help. Before anyone can call upon me to act.
But I do see you struggling with your three children and your luggage and your strollers and your passports. I do see you trying to put on your skis without dropping your poles and your gloves but they keep falling down into the snow. I do see you cleaning up the hot coffee you spilled all over the table and floor in Starbucks, making three trips back up to the counter for more napkins to be able to mop up that venti latte.
And yet I look away.
“Not me,” I seem to be saying. “Not my problem,” I intimate. “Not my responsibility,” I rationalize.
I’m wrong, of course. It is me, it is my problem and it IS my responsibility. To be present, to be mindful, to be helpful. To do something.
Because what if, one day, there is no someone else?
I was lucky with regard to my fallen comrade on the slopes. Someone else did risk falling to help her. Someone else did get her back on her feet, back into her skis. Someone else did care enough to stop. She was okay. But it doesn’t really let me off the hook, does it?
I want to be the someone.
So that's the new mantra that I need to repeat, over and over, until it happens without any hesitation, so that I can’t possibly ski on past: Do Something. That's my refrain: Do Something.
Drop your poles, spill your coffee, ask me to move, fall in my path.
This time, I will not look away.