Growing up, I always thought quicksand would be a bigger deal in my life than it actually was. I was cautious of quicksand and nervous about if and when it would suck me up. Today was the closest I came to sinking in quicksand. For our last and final day of Bear Breaks in Asheville, we served with Asheville Greenworks again helping them to remove a log jam that got stuck in one of the creeks flowing into the French Broad River. To paint a picture of what this morning started out as, we were all instructed to put on rubber waders and boots to protect us from the water. However, the sizes were limited and I ended up looking like a 5’4″ tall Michelin man with XL waders underneath a white puffy coat. (It also started to rain even though there was not even the slightest chance of rain in the forecast). Nevertheless, I love this kind of stuff; the down-and-dirty get after it kind of stuff. I began not to love it, however, when I kayaked over to the other side of the bank to physically remove logs from a giant pile and got stuck in the mud when I tried to get out of my kayak. Literally. I got stuck in this mixture of water/mud/sand slosh for at least twenty minutes. I wish I was exaggerating. I tried to play it off and laugh like, “Haha I’m stuck in the mud; only this would happen to me!” but I was starting to panic. And then I lost my shoe. And then I got even more stuck when I tried to shovel the boot out. So thus I waited in the mud as only stuck people do until one of the Asheville Greenworks staffers paddled over with a shovel to dig the boot out, and then she helped me get out of the goop. Once I was out of said goop and got my boot back on, I went to town on removing those logs from the pile. When we ended the service, I felt great! The weather had warmed up, the sun was shining (a rarity this week), and I felt like we had really made a dent in the log jam. Quite honestly, I even forgot that I almost started crying an hour and a half earlier when I was stuck in the mud.
I realized I do this to a lot of situations in my life. Something tough happens in my life, I feel stuck, then I get out of it and sometimes move on with life without giving it a second thought. I also realized how fortunate I am to do this; to get out of situations relatively quickly because I have a huge support system with me through every step of the way. Heck, I even had a support system while I was physically stuck in the mud. We all just get stuck sometimes. Whether like I was, physically, or mentally, financially, emotionally, or what-have-you. This week once again reminded me that sometimes people are stuck in situations, whether that be they do not have a stable housing or income situation, a disease like HIV/AIDS, or having difficulty finding food for the month. Sometimes the people we love and care about get stuck, and we don’t know how to help them. Sometimes we feel the people far from us, like our friends without homes or our friends with life-changing diseases or different economic situations, get stuck and we don’t know how to help them.
But what if we didn’t look at it as helping them because we feel we are more privileged and it’s what we ought to do? Or what if we didn’t look at it as fixing the problem because it’s broken? But simply just serving the ones around us in the ways that best suit their needs. What if we served them by building relationships with people and letting them know that they are valued and point them to resources that might be of aid? This is the main thing I learned this week: meet people where they are, not where you want them to be. While I was stuck in the mud, Kate (the Greenworks employee) had to meet me where I was: smack dab in the middle of quicksand-esque goop. I’m sure she would have much rather met me up on the bank or on the other shore safe and sound, but she didn’t. She came to me and helped me where I was at, and she got messy while doing so. In fact, she had to go put on different boots and come back so she could better aid me. But she still came back, and she still got messier. So too, with serving others. We can’t get close to people without getting messy. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.