There have been so many instances in my life when I recognize the sheer magnitude of my insignificance here on earth.
One reminder was last winter when I stood on the balcony of our cruise ship just after midnight, looking out at the expanse of darkness that went on forever and ever…and ever, with a blanket of stars illuminating the ocean whitecaps. Bill fell asleep inside the cabin while I stayed out on our private deck as long as I could keep my eyes open. I was simply mesmerized by the beauty and the vastness, contrasted with my little life that felt so small as our mammoth cruise ship bobbed along in the middle of the enormous sea.
That is the type of experience that immerses me into the bigger picture of life, pondering the ultimate question of why we are here. I don’t know that there is necessarily any magical or earth-shattering answer, but I do believe that it has something to do with being our best (which includes following your joy) and loving others.
The exact opposite of that feeling of insignificance happened on Labor Day, a couple years ago. It was a beautiful sunny holiday and all was quiet in our neighborhood. Bill and I were lounging inside on the couches with the windows open, talking about our lives and what we wanted from the upcoming year.
Our conversation was horrifyingly and abruptly invaded by an intense screech of brakes on the busy street just outside our front door, followed by a crash that shattered our hearts.
Racing to action
All in one motion, I looked out the window, called 911, and rushed out the door. What I saw in front of me was an image that my brain raced to comprehend as it was something I had never seen before. A young couple on a motorcycle had smashed into an extended cab pickup truck, and there were two bodies lying motionless on opposite sides of the street.
My first instinct was “Stay away from the scene. You’ll be in the way. Someone else will know what to do and will help.”
But no one was there. No neighbors. No bystanders. No help.
So my second instinct kicked in and I ran to the young woman lying in the street while Bill ran to the young man. I sat in the middle of the road next to her, picked up her hand and held it and massaged it. I repeated over and over to her that everything was going to be okay. I didn’t know if she could hear me, or if she was even alive. I just knew that it was important to “be” with her.
Thank goodness they were wearing helmets. As I held her limp hand in mine, I noticed that her nails were perfectly polished and she was wearing a cute summery outfit. Her trendy purse was still strapped across her chest as her cheek was pressed into the hot blacktop.
My mind imagined a story of this young woman and her guy-friend out together enjoying a day-off; a ceremonial end to summer before the regimen of fall drew near.
I had so much trouble making sense out of what I saw as I sat there on top of the scalding asphalt. The sun beat down on us and Bill began directing traffic. The traffic flow included several motorcycles racing by; all riders without helmets. Ah, the irony…
The paramedics arrive
The sounds of the sirens off in the distance began to get louder, and when the paramedics pulled up, they took over. Bill and I got up to sit on the curb and wait it all out. We don’t know what ever happened to the kids, and the hospitals weren’t allowed to give us any follow-up information, even in response to my sleepless-middle-of-the-night phone call plea. That piece of it was out of our control, and all we could do was offer up a prayer and then let it go.
But what I did learn that day is a lesson I will never forget.
Occasionally I feel like I don’t want to bother others or ‘get in the way,’ so I stand back. I saw that tendency in me show up full-force in this crisis situation.
What I learned on that day is that I am incredibly important, and I have a job to do. Bill and I were supposed to be home right in front of the window at that moment, so that we could simply “be” with the young couple in crisis right outside of our front door.
Amazingly, this event came just on the heels of another adrenaline-filled experience only weeks before as we rescued an elderly couple whose canoe had capsized on a lake in the Boundary Waters. No one else was around. No one else heard their cries for help. No one else was there to get them to safety.
Your significance, my significance
These experiences are reminders to me that each and every one of us has a special role in this place we call “life.” We’re all here together and our lives are all amazingly intertwined. We need one another. So if you ever wonder why you are where you are in life, know that somehow, somewhere…there’s a reason behind it all.
You are incredibly important, and you have a job to do.
Again, it has something to do with being your best, following your joy, and loving others. Our lives can get tangled up with a lot of details and “things,” but when it comes down to it, at a fundamental level it’s a pretty simple recipe for living: Be your best self. Live life and follow your joy. Love others.
Here’s a quote by Marianne Williamson that speaks to me every time I need it:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the glory that is within us. And as we let our light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
The world needs you in ways that you can’t even imagine…