I am a walker. My mom instilled the walking routine in me starting in grade school, and ever since then, it has been my therapy. Whether as a high school student, a special education teacher, a pregnant mother, or a fulltime author, I walk away my troubles; I walk towards peace.
As my daughters grew, I began to invite them on my daily walks. Mostly their answers have been no.
“Don’t quit asking,” my heart advised.
Finally, it happened. Not only did one of my children say yes, but she began inviting me to go.
“Will you walk with me tonight?” my 14-year-old began asking a few months ago. Her requests usually come after 8pm, when the temperatures have fallen, but there is no way I would say no.
Over the holiday break, our walks together were especially significant. My family met my parents and my sister on the South Carolina coast where we have celebrated many Christmases. Since high school, I’ve been walking this particular strip of beach and paved biking paths alone. This time, I relished the fact that daughter walked beside me. Time passed quickly as she talked about her thirst to travel the world, her plan for making money this summer, her expectations for high school next year, her New Year’s Eve plans, and cats … we always talked about our cats.
When it got quiet, she’d say, “Tell me a story.”
One day I told her the story of the stranded alligator I spotted when I was at the beach in the fall. He was quite small and couldn’t seem to escape the waves that continually battered him.
I’ll never forget standing there with tears in my eyes not knowing what to do.
All I knew was I could not walk by.
I decided to stop a passerby to show her the troubling scene. The woman was also concerned and not sure what to do.
She unexpectedly looked down and asked about the little notebook in my hand. When I said I was an author whose best ideas come during my walks, the woman asked me about my books.
Feeling unexpectedly comfortable with her, I shared more than usual. “My books are about being fully present in life so you notice opportunities to love and be loved, even when it’s difficult, inconvenient, or painful—kind-of like noticing struggling baby alligators and trying to help them,” I laughed, but I wasn’t really joking.
“To notice and respond with love,” the woman repeated.
Sensing she was open for further expansion, I said, “I believe it’s the opportunities we miss or walk by that create pain, turmoil, and regret in our lives. It is when we notice and respond with love that we bring peace and purpose to our lives.”
It’s how I knew I must help the alligator.
The woman went on her way and I consulted with a few more beach walkers. Finally, I took matters into my own hands and called the Department of Natural Resources. I spoke to a man named Mark who assured me the alligator could survive a few days in the ocean. He explained that they go in to get parasites off.
“Don’t worry, he’ll be ok,” I remember Mark saying assuredly.
“Mom, only you would try to save an alligator,” my daughter laughed, bringing me back from my reverie.
“I haven’t always been that way,” I admitted, not feeling compelled to explain what I meant. “I like this version of me better,” I said.
“I know,” she said quietly, but there was love in her voice. And there was love between us as we walked back to our rental, looking out into the water for something in need of saving.
That night in the condo I showed my dad one of the videos from my upcoming online course, SOUL SHIFT. Each week, participants will receive a video of me sharing a painful truth from my life that was a catalyst for positive change. I believe this works because in order to get to the fears preventing us from truly living and loving, we have to first tap into some very hard truths about ourselves. In response to each truth, rather than pushing the pain and discomfort away, I allowed it to lead me, enlighten me, improve me. This became a process that changed my life.
In this particular video, I was describing a painful truth that was triggered by a heartbreaking experience with Natalie when she was six. Upon hearing her name in the video, Natalie came over and began watching. After a few minutes, she pulled up a chair, transfixed by her mother’s raw emotions and hope-filled words.
I was describing the pain I saw in her – pain that I’d caused – and how my response to that pain led to real, positive, lasting change in my life.
It would have been easier to walk by the pain I saw in my child.
It would have been easier to deny my part in it.
It would have been easier to deny change was needed.
But I didn’t take the easy path.
I knelt down and acknowledged the pain.
I didn’t know if I could heal the pain, but I knew I could not walk by.
This solitary decision to stop and respond to my inner-most painful truth was what led me on a path of joy and fulfillment, resulting in better version of myself.
I am not the same person I was when I caused my daughter pain and anguish.
That person would not have stopped to save an alligator.
I would have weighed the pros and cons before taking action. I would have determined if I had the time … if I wanted the hassle … if I could take the rejection or judgment I might receive for stepping in, revealing my tender heart, and admitting my fears.
So often I forfeited opportunities to love and be loved. So often I’d let shallow reasons detract me from finding my peace and purpose. I am different now; now I know the purpose of my life is to not walk by.
It was in that initial choice to stop for my daughter’s pain that I actually stopped for myself.
Hopeless, messy, lost, and hurting self, I won’t walk by.
And now, seven years later, I know the significance of one loving response to a scene of pain and struggle. One loving response can transform a life.
Person crying in the pat-down screening area of the airport, I won’t walk by.
Person grouchy, prickly, and sullen sitting at my kitchen table, I won’t walk by.
Person cloaked in depression pulling out trashcans in the neighboring driveway, I won’t walk by.
Person nervously fidgeting, begging to be seen, I won’t walk by.
Person sitting alone in the nursing home day after day, I won’t walk by.
Person being ridiculed at the bus stop, I won’t walk by.
Person cleaning the restroom feeling invisible, I won’t walk by.
Person speaking up with a shaking voice, I won’t walk by.
I won’t walk by because I am you—lost, hopeless, scared, insecure, and hurting sometimes too.
In you, I see my most vulnerable self. And when I attend to you, I attend to me.
Person with weary eyes and a hopeful heart staring back at me, I won’t walk by.
In a world that looks for the quick fix … that prefers to numb the pain … that has no time to waste … where lives are overscheduled and minds are distracted, we opt for the easy route. But then we forfeit the chance to better ourselves and better the world through a single loving response.
No creature too small,
No issue too complicated,
No damage too severe,
No time too passed,
No connection too broken.
I won’t walk by.
Perhaps you sit here today contemplating another daunting New Year’s Resolution. I hope what you have read encourages you to consider a New-Year Response instead. Instantly, the path to becoming a better version of you is not so elusive:
Don’t walk by yourself anymore …
Hopeless, bruised, lost, and hurting
You are worth stopping for,
You are worth saving.
Don’t walk by yourself anymore …
I am here, take my hand.
We’ll walk together, side by side,
Training ourselves to stop for pain and suffering.
This is how we’ll heal the world.
And find our peace and purpose in the process.
Dear friends, to kick off the new year I have created a free eBook for you called: The Positivity Remedy: 6 Strategies to Heal Your Home and Revive Your Heart in 2018. The stories and small-step strategies I share in this book have the potential to soften your inner and outer voice, change your perspective, and repair broken bonds. The strategies in this book can lead to a happier home where people can breathe and thrive. The tools in this book provide what I believe is most vital to creating a positive home – and that is hope, hope in who you already are and hope for who you can become. Click here to get The Positivity Remedy.
Registration opens next week for my online course, SOUL SHIFT! Click here to ensure you don’t miss the sign up or the early-bird pricing. I believe it is NEVER TOO LATE to live the life you want to live or be the person or parent you want to be. Your most painful truths can be a catalyst for change. The tools, accountability, and support you will receive throughout this 8-week journey will facilitate one of life’s hardest, but greatest opportunities: figuring out how to make positive, lasting change in your life and relationships, for good. Click here to join the SOUL SHIFT waitlist.
Thank you for your love, support, and presence, my friends of the Hands Free Revolution. I see light ahead in 2018.