I know you can’t save them all.

But, dammit…I’m trying to.

Sometimes I’m afraid to check my email. I get a sick feeling in my stomach for two reasons: 1) that there will be no reply and 2) that there will be a reply, but not at all the one I want.

Today is one of those days.

I’m afraid to check my mail for fear there will be no reply. I’m afraid that I was too late to do any good. I’m afraid that I missed the point completely, and that my failing to recognize that was the last straw for that person. Even though this person came to me already troubled, saddled with his own personal demons, I failed to lift his burden enough to make a difference.

I’m afraid to check my mail for fear there will be a reply. I’m afraid I’ll be accused of still not getting it, not understanding, of being just like everyone else who has let him down. I’m afraid that my words will be misunderstood. I’m afraid that my frank (but genuinely well-intended) perspective is most unwelcome. I’m afraid that my good intentions will be lost in translation.

At what point do you realize it’s no use any more? At what point do you stop trying to put yourself out there, trying to understand, trying to keep up?

I do not pride myself on having great insight, or great ability to communicate, or great compassion for people (even though some may feel that way). This is because I know I’m going to fail. This is because I think I have failed. I’m not going to reach everyone no matter how hard I try. And what’s worse…not everyone wants to be saved.

I’m human, I’m limited in what I can do. I can make some observations, express my opinion based on my limited frame of reference and my limited frame of experience, and hope like hell that it’s just what you need to hear.

If you’ve been touched by anything I have had to say, I’m filled with gratitude that I may have made a difference in your life. If you respond to me, letting me know I’ve helped in some small measure, this is my greatest joy.

But…I’m humble enough to know that it’s not always going to be good enough. Try as I might, I can’t save you all.

This is my greatest sorrow.

I wish you all peace and joy and love and hope.

You are welcome to hang out here with me as long as you like. When you feel the need to move on, I will let you go and wish you peace and comfort as you continue your journey.

I only ask this of you: if you’ve been helped by me, don’t try to pay me back. Pay it forward. Give of yourself to someone else who may need a hand up and could use your love and your support.

This entry was posted in my stories, On friendship, paying it forward, personal issues, perspective, reaching out to others in need. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to I know you can’t save them all.

  1. Papa T says:

    That’s interesting…being “afraid” to check email. People, but even more particularly emails, have the power that we give to them. It is highly unlikely that you are/were too late to do any good. It seems to me that you are doing all sorts of good. It also seems unlikely that you could miss any point completely and that your actions would amount to a “last straw.”

    I wonder why you are fretting over failure to lift another person’s burden. Perhaps this person is capable of dealing with his own demons and burden?

    Sometimes ideas are exchanged and the person on the “other end” is just saying what she or he thinks and doesn’t mean to infer that we are missing the point. Sometimes we inject our own subjectivity–for whatever reason–into the mix and become overly concerned with our own insecurities. Sometimes we don’t have enough information. It can be frustrating.

    People who have been let down a lot sometimes can be a bit difficult at times. That doesn’t make them “bad people.” [Some other things might, but not that.] I can’t imagine your being “just like” everyone else that has let anybody down.

    You’re afraid that your words will be misunderstood? That’s a risk that we all take every time we spout words, right?

    You’ll figure it out. I have faith in you.

  2. Mr. RSG says:

    It’s a sad but true fact.

    1) There are lots of people that need help, but don’t know it. (You can try to show them how things CAN be and gently nudge them to health)
    2) There are people that need help, but don’t WANT it. (Again, you can try to NUDGE them to being open to aid)
    3) There are people that need help, and THINK they want help, but really don’t. (Either because they’re “not in that place” yet, or they really like having the attention (or power or control or whatever) that they get from people “helping” them).
    4) There are people that need and want help, but can’t break out of the cycle that’s brought them down in the first place. (Much like a drug abuser or alcoholic going to meetings to quit, but still hanging around with their “friends” that get them back into the habit)

    Through about a year or two of high school, I had a #3. I got a call one night, he was distraught about something (grades, girls, or some other high school crisis). He was talking about suicide and snuffing it all. I sat on the phone for hours talking him down, skipping my homework, taking a genuine interest in showing him that things weren’t that bad, that he was better than he thought, etc., etc. He felt better and was OK – for a couple of days; then there was another call. Then another. Then another. Like I mentioned, this went on for probably close to two years – so if I seem a little unmoved by this tale of tragedy, it just wore thin.
    Looking back through my decided-not-rose-colored glasses, I can’t help but see all of my “assistance” as actually feeding some type of ego-monster that fed on the good vibes I tried giving him. I thought I was talking him off the ledge, but really it was his interior “Audrey” saying, “Feed me, Seymor!” {reference: “Little Shop of Horrors”} I think I did do some good – definitely at first, and a couple times here-and-there later – but I wonder if I had shut off the spigot and told him “Grow up! Get over it!” how differently things might have turned out.

    When it comes to helping spread emotional and psychological freedom there are the occasional bright spots that crop up (I can think of at least one 🙂 ), but often you will find that people are unwilling or unable to fully commit to the changes necessary to break their chains.

    Don’t give up. Just realize if they’re not ready – they’re not ready.
    Pushing for change turns into a repellent and then you WON’T be able to help them.
    Be willing to accept the person as they are at the moment and don’t try to fix what they don’t want fixed.
    Be ready for when they are ready to commit to breaking out of their funk to offer all the love and support you can muster.

    [This would look cooler if I could reply with HTML tags]

  3. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Mr RSG –

    All these years I’ve known you, you’ve never told me that story. I’m glad you told me now.

    That being said…I don’t think I was trying to change the person. I was trying to understand him but not getting the sense that it made any difference. What do I do when someone tells me “I’m giving up” and “I’m going to isolate myself because there’s no point anymore in trying to fight” for what they think is the right thing to do, immediately after I tried to give my support?

  4. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Papa T –

    I have gotten vicious emails and letters before from people (my sister, my mother and my grandfather all sent horrible words to me through email and letters). Emails/letters are not always carriers of good news for me. I could send you a few of them that I still have saved to my computer. It’s hard not to give them power because they are so vicious and so cruel.

    I freely admit my insecurity about it. Most of my life I’ve been criticized for my passionate responses and they were not always welcome. I think the ones that hurt the worst were the ones by email/letters, because they become etched into my memory far longer than spoken words.

    I also freely admit I get too caught up in other people’s problems, and try to help troubleshoot them. Only this isn’t always a good thing.

    You see, it’s not always clear when someone is really asking for solutions, or just wanting to vent. Unless, of course, they tell me so from the beginning.

    Funny thing is, Mr. RSG pointed out to me tonight that I’m the same way. As I was relating the story to him, he interjected “this is exactly the way I have felt”. In the past, he offered me solutions to my problems, but I would shoot holes in them, explaining why they wouldn’t work for me. By rejecting his proposed suggestions, I had left him feeling like he wasted his energies and that his opinion wasn’t good enough. After a while, he wondered why he tried in the first place.

    It’s my fault for misinterpreting things. I get that. After going round and round about this all day long, I realized I should have asked more questions before I responded. It probably would have saved me a lot of frustration and more misunderstanding.

    But, I didn’t. And email is so limiting. A person doesn’t have the ability to read non-verbal signals, to ask for clarification, or to even say, “hey, did you really mean that the way it sounded…because if you did, you hurt my feelings.”

    Sigh…it’s 11 pm and I’m really tired now. Maybe I’ve done some good, maybe I haven’t. I can’t tell anymore because I’m too exhausted to tell.

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