I once spent a month helping a friend who was in a terrible crisis – the kind most of us never have to face. I was providing all the support I could and it was exhausting. I called my dad for help and apologized for burdening him. “No,” he said. “That’s not how it works. You’re there to help your friend and I’m here to help you.” My dad painted me a picture of nodes (people) connected by lines (relationships), forming a web. He asked me to imagine that one of the nodes on the web had to absorb something big, something really heavy.
He said, “Now – the thing is that the nodes actually can’t absorb things. They’re static. They don’t stretch. Absorption is a property of lines. They can bend and bounce and handle weight. When something terrible happens, that’s when relationships matter most, because people can’t absorb it themselves, they need their relationships, and those people will need their relationships, and so on and so on until the weight is small, spread out among many.”
Recently when I think of this image I think about example setting. I’ve come to realize that setting an example is an unavoidable side effect of asking for help. I’ve come to think of it as a strengthening force rippling through the same web, helping each node it touches. I’ve learned this from you – from readers reaching out, thanking me for my example, an example I had no idea I was setting.
Slowly, I’m learning not to wait for a crisis. Lines are for absorbing things. Let’s go ahead and set that example.