I was watching a TV show earlier this week. A woman had just finished making a potato salad when her mother pointed out that as soon as she walked away, she would add some mustard, and then her brother would come by and add celery. Half-jokingly, the woman said, “Am I going to have to stand here and guard this potato salad?” Her mother replied, “Only if you think you are the only one who can make it right.”
I think we can all relate to this; I know I do. I look at the world and have opinions on many things; I often think my way of doing things is better. It is easy to look at our neighbor, parish, workplace, or community and notice all the things we would do differently. We can get inside our own little heads and forget we do not have all the information; we forget that we are not in the other person’s shoes. In our neat little box, we identify what needs fixing. And then, we criticize. And, even if we don’t continue down this path and end up gossiping, judging, and who knows what else… How much time and energy do we waste? What if, instead of trying to take over the job of another, we ask, how can we help?
“It looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.” These words were spoken by Diana Nyad after achieving her lifetime dream of swimming (without a shark cage) from Cuba to Key West. She was over 60 years old when, in her fifth attempt, and with a team of about 40 traveling with her, she swam 110.86 miles in 52 hours, 54 minutes, and 18 seconds. As I watched the film Nyad, based on this true story, I was struck by how much each team member sacrificed to support Diana on her journey. But I was also struck by how much they each gained. The coach, the navigator, the kayak swimmers, the medic… each of them had a role to play, and in helping Diana complete her race, they completed their own race.
“If you want something done right, do it yourself.” This is a lie. When we take over and do the job meant for another, we take away the means God has prepared for their holiness. We let pride lead and take the easy way out. Love plays its part, supporting and helping, not taking over and leaving the other behind. Even if it would be quicker and easier to do something by ourselves, there is great joy when we allow others to help.
(Spoiler alert!) One of the things portrayed in the film is Diana Nyad's growth in humility. The realization of how much she needed her team came about after much heartache and failure. She realized that while she swam in the dark, alone with her thoughts, others were watching her back, guiding the boat, providing her food and water, and keeping her safe; they were making the journey with her. Once she realized each person in her team, handpicked for their particular skills, was not disposable or easily replaceable, pride dissipated and she became grateful. Her role in this journey was hers alone, but she could not make it alone. She needed a team; she needed friends; she needed love.