I was 11-years-old and in a crowded junior high school when I first felt the need of someone (anyone) to be by my side. My friends had walked ahead of me. I was on crutches as the possible solution to the the steady deterioration of my left hip. I was slow, clumsy, and fighting to find my friends and keep up with them. The fight ended with me falling and sprawled face first. It was only then the crowds stopped to check in on me. Not before when I really needed them. My friends rushed by my side. I wanted to snap, “So, now you are here by my side? Where were you when I really needed you?”
For as long as I could remember, I was the one behind everyone else. Lost in the crowds. Straining my neck to try to find familiar backsides and faces. Nearly no one waited for me. I grew up as the smallest one in the sea of average height and the towering tall. All hurried and rushed ahead at their own gusto speed only to turn their heads around every so often to spout out: “Where’s Mary?”
There were those select few who did wait because they had the insight and intuition to know what it was like to be left behind and alone, resulting in patience and compassion to be by my side. There were even the smaller few who reached out for my hand to hold and solidify that they would stay by my side no matter what. These people were my life savers.
I was always the smallest and shortest one. Me with the small stature at not even hitting the 5 foot inches mark. Me with the short legs that were not born or made for running or speed walking, but forced to struggle to catch up and fall into step with everyone. All these diminutive parts of me were the outer façade to my inner aching and deteriorating joints that slowed me down to the point of needing crutches and then a wheelchair as needed in junior high school. Gone were those days with the gift of my second kidney transplant and greatly thanks to heavy duty bipolar Prednisone. In came the new days with a brand new hip replacement in the last two years.
Even with the new titanium and ceramic materials in my body for the hip replacement that has me full of gratitude for the gift of movement, I am still coming to grips that I will still always be the one who falls behind in the literal and physical sense. It has taken years of trying to keep up with everyone to recently now stop with the knowledge and application that I no longer should have to or need to even try to run to catch up to people to fall into their step. I just need to go at my own steady and personal pace to see who will stop to check on me and fall into my own step and pace.
I can now say that I appreciate my very own pace that makes me stop to slow down and appreciate, observe, and ingest all the magic and wonder all around me, but, most of all, my very own pace in life has opened my eyes to who has been and who is by my side. Have you ever pushed the pause button on your life to see who is by your side in the literal and figurative sense? Who is it that gives you their hand to hold on to, a shoulder to cry on, slows down their pace for the two of you to walk side by side and who is not in search of you but just to be with and right next to you?
We spend our days rushing and hurrying so intently and intensely that we do not stop to slow down—not just for ourselves, but for the people all around us who need someone by their side. Very rarely do people pause to take in everything and anyone who may need help and to lend out that helping hand. Growing up and even now, I love when someone opens the palm of their hand for me to hold on to. All those delicate palm lines for me to feel against the palm of my hand. All the long and deft fingers to grasp on to and entwine in my hand in radiating warmth and comfort. Their outreached hand said to me, “Mary, I got you. You are not behind. I am not ahead of you. I am by your side. We are in this together. We got each other.”
In this fast-paced world we live in, we forget that it is more important to be kind than to be right and that it is more empowering to be together than to be divided. To those who waited for me and stayed by my side, their presence was the greatest present I could ever ask, for we were in this together. To those who did not wait for me and walked many feet ahead, I wished for them to slow down and welcomed them anytime to walk at my pace to enjoy and savor all around.
The truth of the matter is that everyone needs someone. Life is not meant to be walked alone. No person is an island. Yet, how many times have you fell behind, were lost in the crowds, or felt like an island without anyone there by your side? How many more times did it take until someone (anyone) was by your side?
Here is my hope for everyone to slow down just a little bit and stay by someone’s side and for you to have someone there right by your side.
Keep smiling’ until we meet again,