Be Human, Not A Hero
We’ve all had those epiphanic moments in our lives. The ones that bring an undeniable clarity to a situation and prove to change the way you think moving forward. You know that your reality has changed the instant it strikes.
I want to share with you a lesson I learned while spending 6 days in a Dominican hospital…
While in college I spent a summer volunteering with an international aid organization in the Dominican Republic. I worked with Haitian refugees tutoring children in english and math, as well as putting on extracurricular activities. It was extremely challenging for me on nearly every level, but the worst had yet to come.
Near the end of my trip I got sick. Very sick. I’ll spare most of the details, but I had consumed an incredible number of parasites (the most the hospital had ever seen in one person) and I also had a serious bacteria infection in my arm. Either one of these issues could have been life-threatening, but both of them together gave reason to consider an emergency airlift back to the states.
Many things during those days were a blur. I was sick and hurting. I was in the most vulnerable state I have ever been in, but I didn’t want others to know. Selfishly, I wanted to be strong and present an image of confidence and put-togetherness. I wanted people to return home “wowed” by how stoic I was in the face of this terrifying situation. I didn’t want others to have to go out of their way to help me because I thought I could deal with it.
As a leader, I had built in my head this idea that the best leaders are those that don’t need anyone else. They are the ones who stand alone and bear incomprehensible burdens with the great strength only they possess. And here I was, unable to get to the bathroom without having someone help me, nor bathe myself. I was broken.
Through all of this, I learned that it’s ok to hurt. I learned that it takes strength to show others that you are hurting as well and to lean on them for help. No one thought less of me when I didn’t have the energy to engage in conversation or to be a warm or welcoming host in my hospital room.
I wanted to be strong for others, instead of letting them be strong for me. It can be hard to embrace love and care, but for your sake I hope you are able to learn this lesson sooner than I and under better circumstances. There is a time to be strong and there is a time to be human.
Ultimately, I believe that people want to follow humans, not heroes.