We All Count and Count on Each Other

It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.
— John Joseph Powell

If I had read the above quote when I was in college, I would have scoffed and held it up to ridicule. For me, the life of an artist required the isolation and glorification of self. For me also, there was a lot of learning still ahead. And who among us isn’t learning now what we thought we knew then?

We are all alone, but we are alone together. Knowing this makes us aware of the intra- and inter-dependence that keeps us balanced and sane.

We all need people around us to survive — mentally, psychologically, and spiritually. To deny this is to deny we all need someone to water our garden — and remind us that we are a garden.

When we are in a tough place and wanting things to get better having the company of someone who simply assures us that things can get better, and will get better, and you better believe it — makes all the difference.

Of all the things we can make in life, why not make a difference? And little makes as much of a difference as the difference we can make in the lives of each other.

Here is something that I call an “impact quiz,” and here is the first of two parts:

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.

2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.

3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.

4. Name five people who have won a Nobel or Pulitzer prize.

5. Name the last five Academy Award winners for best actor or actress.

How did you do?

The point is, few, if any of us, remember the headliners of yesterday,and these are no second-rate achievers. These are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners. Every stage eventually goes dark.

Here’s the second half to the quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List two teachers who aided your journey through school.

2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.

3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.

4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

Was that easier? And what is the lesson?

The people who make a difference in our lives are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones who care. And they are the ones who will help you stay sober and sane. Do you get it? If you care, you make a difference.

Having the company of another isn’t always the company of a mother, father, lover, sister or brother. It is the simple company of a smile passed along on a street corner to someone you will never meet again. And this smile will be kept as company in some quiet place remembered even when you are forgotten. Who among us does not remember someone who reminded us we were not forgotten?

Rabbi Leo Baeck was a hugely important spiritual leader in Germany and imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. He explained, “In the camp I was a ‘horse.’ I was harnessed to a wagon and forced to drag the loads of horror.”

When people asked him how he could survive such an experience, Baeck said, “Well, I had another ‘horse’ beside me, and he was a philosopher, and we could talk.”

How life will challenge us, what life will require of us, how we will overcome the addictions of ignorance, hate and substances pressing in on the borders of every moment is something we will all come sadly to discover. Against this darkness we can only pray for the company of another — who, even with her own challenges, will afford us company and by her presence be a candle so we might find our way through the night.

Little makes us better company to others than being good company to ourselves. And nothing makes us better company to ourselves than being there for someone else. The famed anthropologist Margaret Mead said the beginning of all real civilization was when someone wondered where you were when you didn’t come home at night.

Whether you are at the door to a cave or a condominium, whether your life is good or you’re trying to keep your footing in a rocking boat, keep an eye out for someone who’s a little late, in a lot of trouble or simply praying someone is praying for them. We all count and count on each other.

This post was inspired by Heroes in Recovery, a movement dedicated to breaking the stigma of addiction and mental health disorders through the power of storytelling and celebrating heroic efforts of those who seek the help they need without feeling ashamed or isolated. Share your story today.