There’s No I In Mutual Support

John Holmes said, "There is no better exercise for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up."

I once had the opportunity to climb Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica. It’s a 600 foot long climb up a 180 foot waterfall near Ocho Rios. The waterfall is one of the few in the world that flows directly into the ocean, and it is beautiful. It takes about an hour to make the climb. Along the way, there are small lagoons where you can stop and play in the water. The way it works is you have a guide who has made the climb many times before and is there to support you and inform you about the best practices for the trip. The guide will instruct you to form a chain with all the people in your whole group.

So, what’s the purpose of the chain? Along the way, there are some big steps to make (especially if you’re 5’3”). At certain points the water is rushing over your feet creating resistance, Also, there is algae on some of the rocks making them a bit slippery. Most people could navigate these obstacles alone. I could have used my hands to help pull myself up a big step. I could have been cautious and avoided the algae. Or, I could do it the way they suggest by allowing the person ahead of me to give me assistance as I simultaneously helped the person behind me.

The first way would involve me staring down at rocks the whole time, scanning for algae, and only focusing on myself. The second allowed me to look around and admire all the sights. I could look back to see how far I had come and appreciate the progress I had made. I could also look ahead at what was to come.

Reaching Out for Support

Doesn’t it sometimes feel like we’re making our climb alone? Or, like no one else could help us even if we asked, because they wouldn’t understand our unique challenges. Had I made that climb up Dunn’s River Falls with my head down, focused only on myself, I would have missed the fact that the whole group was on the same journey as me. Had I refused to take the hand of the person ahead of me, I wouldn’t have been able to extend my other hand to the one behind me. It makes us feel vulnerable to depend on someone we don’t know. Or even to offer assistance to a stranger.

We are unique individuals but our challenges aren’t. Someone has faced similar obstacles before you. There is certainly less vulnerability, less exposure to our wounds, in keeping quiet and facing it all alone. What you miss out on, however, is real human connections, the ability to appreciate what’s happening around you and the value of helping another human being.

I got to practice mutual support in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica

It sparks vulnerability and exposes a wound in myself to tell you from first hand experience that you should reach out for support if you need it. I refused to for a long time. I thought that it was a sign of weakness and continued to struggle with mental health challenges alone. Until I couldn’t anymore. In turn, I gain strength from reaching out for others to grab hold when needed.

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