“The only person you can now or ever change is yourself. The only person that it is your business to control is yourself.” - Melody Beattie
My husband and I were on a run the other day through the neighborhood. As we were running, I happened to notice a small dove, alone and somewhat wandering towards the middle of the street.
I felt compelled to do something.
I was convinced it was going to get hit by a car if it stayed there. It didn’t seem to flinch when I moved closer. Was it hurt? Could it fly? Was it lost? So many questions I wondered out loud to my husband. Now, this is a man who loves animals in his own right, going to great lengths to let even the hairiest of spiders live, while safely removing them from the house.
However, in my pondering of what to do for this little bird, my husband was growing impatient and requested we return to our run. After all, we didn’t have our kids with us, and time is always of the essence in these situations.
So, I subtly shooed the bird to the side of the road and gave it a stern talking to, no doubt it would heed my warnings. We decided to do a few laps around the block, so we’d see if the little guy was still there the next time we passed.
We went on our way, and as we ran, I continued to expressed my concern to my husband. I would feel so horrible if something happened to the dove, especially if I could have done something. I rambled on about thinking about all of the options, from helping the bird stay to the one side of the street to taking it to the wildlife center. These thoughts consumed me as I ran.
Well, sure enough as we rounded the corner, I looked and saw the dove, this time further in the middle of the street than last time.
As I stood, trying to shoo the bird back to the one side, my husband said something that hadn’t dawned on me. What if the bird just wanted to get to the other side and was trying to do so in between cars? What if my interference was scaring it and hindering its whole goal? (My husband went on about the poor family of the bird that was looking for its missing family member. His story was unnecessarily dramatic and was more far-fetched than the stories our kids make up. Needless to say, I got his point.)
Right then and there, I decided to let it go.
It’s amazing the lesson this little dove taught me that morning that then carried into the following weeks.
I really don’t know what is best for other people.
There are times I take in the information I am given, circumstance and facts, and make my determination of what should be the right course of action for the person and the situation. However, who am I to truly know what is best? How can I possibly give my judgment to a situation that is not my own?
In the case of the bird, it may have been trying to get across the road, and maybe I was in the way. Equally, maybe it was hurt and disoriented. I don’t know.
As adults, we do have a responsibility to help others that cannot help themselves. So, the lesson of the dove that morning can literally only go so far. But the underlying premise of trying to assume that we know better for others and actually trying to change the course of events for another, well, that is something of which we really have no control.
It can be hard to see loved ones struggle. It can be especially hard when the answer seems so glaringly obvious to us. The “if onlys” pour out in abundance and it seems so simple to solve the problems of others. “If only” they would say this or do that, then the situation would be better, if not resolved.
We have to remember the struggles of others are not our own.
We need to do our best to be kind and to give compassion. We give what we can of ourselves, and then let go the need to change the course for someone else. Admittedly, it can be challenging to know at what point we are simply doing the right thing by giving versus interjecting ourselves into a situation into where there is no longer a place for us.
It’s not a line of clear division. Often fuzzy, we walk the line of caring for ourselves, our health and sanity, and still caring about those that are struggling.
We have to remember that we would not be where we are or know what we know, had it not been for the experiences that came to us – the mud through which we trudged. By attempting to solve all of the problems for someone else, we are essentially robbing them of that same self-knowledge that comes with struggle, and even sometimes the failure that is often more valuable.
Equally, we can get so wrapped up in what we think we know about other people, that it takes us away from much needed self-reflection. We lose sight of ourselves and the lessons that are waiting for us on the path ahead.
As for the bird, I don’t know what happened. We finished our run, and I never saw any sign that it remained and was injured. It was very likely doing what it needed to do, needing no lesson from me. Low and behold, I got out of the way, and humbly, I was the one that learned the lesson.