In our local wetlands there is a small footbridge over what, for most of the year, is a small and scummy puddle. There is a sign there which grandly proclaims this algae-covered mudhole to be “The Water of Life”. It seems impossible that it could sustain any life at all, except for mosquitoes and sandflies. There is nothing to be seen in this sludge-puddle that bears any resemblance to it’s name.
But under the surface things are different. Under the surface there is life, waiting for the right time and conditions to burst forth and flourish. There are frogs and insects who manage to survive throughout the dry season, sustained by the fresh-water table which keeps the mud moist underneath the dry, cracked surface. When the rains come, this waterhole is abuzz with dragonflies, frogs, honey-eaters, kingfishers and all manner of living things.
In my last newsletter, I mentioned that I wanted to write this next blog on caring for others when they don’t seem to want our help. Maybe they are denying that they need help, maybe they are so busy holding themselves together that they can’t let anybody else in. Maybe they just don’t want us around (and when it’s your children that are telling you this, that’s the hardest of all). When we love the person, we can’t stop caring, and yet what can we do with it? We have no tangible way of acting on it, and it’s hard to feel we can’t do anything to help.
Reflecting on this as I did the wetlands walk and came across the “Water of Life” and it’s seemingly preposterous sign, it struck me that perhaps that’s our job. Our job to be the sign that, in spite of appearances, affirms the goodness of what’s below – of what’s not seen.
When we are unable to do anything else, can we hold in our hearts the best of that person – all that’s good and true about them? When. for whatever reason, they are unable to be their best self, can we hold that possibility for them? Can we connect to their spirit, and wrap them in a place of love and hope and faith?
This might all sound a little airy-fairy. But I believe that we are all connected to Spirit and to each other. This is our natural state. Even though so often things happen to disconnect and divide us, on a deeper level we can still access that connection. And we can still work to build and strengthen it, even if it seems one-sided.
Often we still need to do something active. Maybe we can develop a ritual – holding a photograph, lighting a candle, walking somewhere special – and do that as a tangible act of holding hope for that person – of protecting their spirit, and honouring the reality of that deeper connection. Maybe we can talk about them with a friend, envisaging who they are when they are at their best.
Lastly, we can honour ourselves for the love and care that we hold in our hearts. It can be painful, and hard, especially when we see no signs of what’s happening underneath the surface. We need to find ways to build ourselves up as well, so that we can be the sign that proclaims “Water of Life”.