“Two steps forward,” I’ve been thinking about since my Skype date yesterday with my friend Paula Stephens. She shared with me that a mentor of hers reminded her that we are most effective in helping the people around us if we are only two steps ahead of them. Just two steps, that’s all it takes to have the capacity to reach back and help the people just behind you on the path.
I’ve know for years that we experience the most growth in our lives when we are linked with three types of people: those who are just ahead of us leading the way with love and wisdom, those right beside us experiencing a similar journey, and those just behind us on the path needing our support. We need all three in our lives: mentors, peers and students. These people make up our Tribe.
I’ve experienced this is so many areas of life. Let me give you a few examples.
I remember being a young Momma. I was so blessed to have my own mother and other mom mentors like my friend Cindy, who reached back and gave me the gift of their life experience and encouragement. I also had some precious mom-friends who were there to join me on crazy outings to the playground, to take a picnic to the lake, to load all the kids up in a mini-van and go grocery shopping together, or to spend an hour on the phone comparing parenting adventures during nap time. (This was back before social media and I remember how grateful I was to get rid of my 30 foot long coiled phone cord and exchange it for a cordless phone!) And I only had to take two steps into motherhood before there were mommas just a few steps behind me ready for me to reach back and encourage.
When we ventured out into adoption, it was much the same way. Friends who were just a few steps ahead of us, reached back and extended a hand both on our domestic adoptions and our international adoptions. I remember countless phone calls and emails asking for help, I had a bazillion questions. Then as we started taking those first steps, we found others on the same journey and we linked arms and hearts. It was only a few months after our first adoption, that I became the one reaching back. That’s when my journey as an adoption consultant began. What qualified me? The simple fact that I was two steps ahead. Eventually, I would coach hundreds of couples through their own journey and train other amazing women to do the same.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS
A few years ago when my health was in a really bad place, my friend Carolyn reached back and grabbed my hand. She was just a few steps ahead on her own healing journey, but she saw me and reached back. I soon found myself in a tribe of others like me had taken the first baby step to health and wellness, and we linked arms. And as crazy as it sounds, about 30 days later, I was ready to reach back and help others start the brave adventure of reclaiming their health. Since that moment that I decided to reach back, nearly 3,000 people have linked arms by either reaching back or reaching ahead or linking arms with someone right beside them on the path. That’s how a tribe is formed. It’s how it was meant to be.
GRIEF AND HEALING
And on August 21, 2014 my sweet Mattie died and the road beneath me changed. I stood there shaking on this unstable ground. And the most beautiful thing happened, people started reaching back, people who had walked before me. Some of them reached back unknowingly through their writings on blogs, through books, or through social media platforms. Some reached back intentionally, sharing their story in loving private messages, sending me precious gifts and notes in the mail, or showing up at my door with food because they had been “me” not to long before. Within weeks after the funeral, I found some precious souls who were on this path with me, fresh in grief, and we linked arms and began to heal together and talk about #oncomingalive. And because I had learned so many times in my life the power of giving, I chose to reach back. I chose to offer my story to the ones on the path with me, beside me or behind me, and I dug in deep and chose to learn from those ahead of me on the journey.
And so my friends,
Make sure you are always in a place of leading and being led, of teaching and being taught, of healing others and being healed by other. Make sure that you are brave enough to link arms with those beside you on the path and spur one another on.
Don’t keep your head down! Be looking ahead on the path for the Bright Lights who are walking ahead showing you that there is hope and healing. And don’t ever get so focused on your own journey, that you refuse to glance back over your shoulder to see that one who might just be reaching out for you to give them hope.
If you’re two steps ahead, look back and reach out your hand. Someone needs you to lead them to healing. In leading others, your own healing will take two more steps forward.
And I say this with love and compassion. Please remember, we don’t stop on the path and go backwards for the sake of helping others, we have to reach back but keep walking. Pause of a moment if you must, but always keep moving forward with your own journey, never let the wound or hurt of another cause you to dig a deeper wound for yourself or cause you to get stuck on the path. It’s only our job to issue the invitation to healing. It’s not our job to do the work for another human being.
No one can take the journey for you or for me. But we can be there for each other ready to simply be there in the walking, in the taking the next step, and say, “I’ve done this you can too.”
It is simply our job to say, “This is my story. There is hope. Come along with me.”