My relationship with Lea epitomizes what I think is so great about social media and the internet. She lives in Chicago; I'm in Florida. Our paths would likely never have crossed in our day to day lives. We "met" when she joined The Mom Pledge Community and became an active member. We've gotten to know each other from there. We've Skyped with our kids. And knowing her has enriched my life.
I've featured Lea here before, as one of my Ross' Rad Reads recipients. I'm honored to have her again today, in her own words...
Everybody knows one.
That one person, who when something goes wrong, you can turn to THAT person and she'll be like, "Chill out, bro, I got this. You're gonna be okay."
And over the years, I've come to realize that this person is me.
Not because I started having babies before most of my friends got married.
Not because I was already crafty and experimental in the kitchen.
Not because I wasn't afraid of getting dirty and I wasn't squeamish around blood and guts.
No, it's because I have been through my own share of fairly public catastrophes. I've been the friend you go to when your city is on fire since I moved out of my parents' house. And I never questioned it. Not until I was a parent.
The first time a friend came to stay on my couch to escape an abusive husband, I didn't really worry about the impact this would have on my kids. What they would take away from being in that environment. I didn't worry about them because I was too busy worrying about her.
But by the time I was organizing phone chains for people getting ready for surgery, or counseling my friends through dangerous pregnancy complications, or giving tips on fighting insurance companies to a friend who's significant other had an undiagnosed mass in their brain... I began to wonder.
What do my kids take away from me being "Disaster Mom?"
And more importantly, what do I want them to take away from it?
What I worry about, helplessly, is that they will grow up thinking that this is normal. That their lives are going to be filled with illnesses, with medical emergencies, with abusive relationships and with natural disasters.
I worry that they'll grow up thinking that life is terrifying, that at any moment they could lose a parent, or the ocean could rise and swallow their home whole, or the people they love could find themselves fighting for their lives.
I worry that they'll grow up thinking that the reason you need a couch in your house is so that people can cling to it like a life raft.
But each time something awful happens, to a friend or a stranger, I don't hesitate. Whether it's locking my kids in the car on a hot day to wait for an ambulance, or taking them to the home of a friend who's lost his wife, or bringing meals to another daddy who lost his job, I just say yes.
And that is what I want them to learn. I want them to learn that in life, helping is the most important thing. That life might be unpredictable, and terrible things might happen, but there will always be somebody who cares who will stop whatever they're doing, and make space in their lives to care intensely for them when they are in need. That they can always be that person.
It doesn't take being the victim of violence, or watching your husband battle an allegedly terminal cancer, or learning to give stitches to friends without health insurance. It doesn't take a guest bedroom or a flexible work schedule or a big sign on your door that says "WELCOME" to make people know that you are there for them.
They know because with every action, you show them the kind of person you are.
In my case? Most of my friends have seen me step in and help, and they know that if they need me, I'll do it. It becomes a cycle, and it repeats over and over again.
Most people are fortunate enough that they have never needed to reach out to their friends for help.
But I think if we all stop and ask ourselves a simple question, we would get the same answer. And that question is, "Do I want to help?"
And in that way, we're all the Disaster Mom.
So maybe my kids will be a little more versed in hospital terminology and legal jargon. But they'll also know how to approach a person in need and offer a hand.
Deep down, I hope that someday my kids are all the Disaster Mom.
I think, deep down inside, everybody is.
I can think of no greater lesson than to teach our children compassion and that we can make a difference in others lives by offering a helping hand when its needed.
This post resonated with me particularly given the year I have had. Without the help of friends, I don't know if I'd still be standing today.
Thank you, Lea for being who you are and sharing yourself with us!
Check out the previous 2013 Summer Series posts: