Helping Yourself in Order to Help Others

As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others. – Audrey Hepburn

 Towards the end of last week, I started feeling ill. It started with a fever one night that ibuprofen was able to break, but then the next day it was back and stronger. And then it followed for a third day, quickly sweeping through from a head fever to a body fever. Then came headaches and muddled thoughts. Anyone who knows what I went through the last time I started developing symptoms like this in Ghana probably understands at least a fraction of the worry that took a hold of me. When I told George, at first he wanted to take me to the hospital, but then he told me that there was a bitter herb that grows in their yard that would make me feel better if I drank it for a few courses. I have grown up with a mother who believes in natural medication and prefer as well to use what nature has blessed us with before turning to medicine. So all weekend I or someone else brewed this bitter herb for me and even though it was terribly bitter, I gulped it down—because the alternative just was not a choice. And it made me sweat and sweat, but in a short period of time, I felt better and better. While I was at home I took other instructions from George on how to get better, and it made me think about how George is always so concerned about how I’m doing outside of work. He always wants to make sure I am eating right, am making friends, have time to do things that I enjoy doing, and anything else that was completely about my own personal well-being. George himself is very interested in health topics and what he puts inside his body and does. He practices what Marianne Elliot refers to in her blog as self-kindness. And I have realized that it is not selfish at all to take care of yourself because by taking care of yourself, you are doing part of your work of being kind towards others. Marianne Elliot reminded me that it is when we begin being kind to ourselves that we find out just the amount of kindness we have within ourselves for others. How else can we do work that asks of us more than just physical labor?

So there are those things that I practice or surround myself with that fulfill my commitment to self-kindness. They make me keep that peaceful balance in my life that I am always working towards and trying to maintain. They remind me that I am only human and must love myself in order to properly love others. And loving myself means practicing those things that keep my body, mind, heart, and soul well and whole.

I am kind to my body by trying to watch what I put inside it. There is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables readily available within a short radius of where I live here, and some just right in our own garden. I drink lots of water, as it is a natural body cleanser. And I get lots of walking in during any given day.

Each morning I read words from my simple living book and share in a devotional with George and his wife. Afterwards I meditate on the words before getting ready for my day. Taking time out to block out everything else around me and just fill my mind with positive thinking has become very important to me. Those simple acts put my mind and soul at rest and give me a sense of assurance and peace as I set out on a new day’s journey.

I am kind to my heart by allowing myself to acknowledge the flood of emotions I often feel. I try to identify the emotions, where they are coming from, and how I can approach them in the healthiest way possible. I have also started to be kind to my heart in the way of trying more to let myself not hide when I am hurt, disappointed, or angry, recognizing that they are also part of human nature.

But probably most importantly, my heart especially feels my practice of self-kindness when I allow those who care about me in my life, both near and far, to be kind to it too. I am doubly blessed to not only have a loving family who I am close to back home in Indiana, but also the Baiden family here in Ghana, who have made me feel like a loved member of their family in a short period of time. I am even blessed moreover with second families too, like Emma and his family, and Evans and his mom.

My friends have been integral parts of my support system. I want to take the time to point out some people who especially have helped me at this particular time, without sounding too much like an awards show: Roxanne for being an inspirational mentor and friend in the field; Melissa and Allie, for always encouraging me to find those things that compel me to move in this world; Teeny, Alyssa, and Denny, for going down this new path of blog writing and post-graduation journeys of discovery with me; Sara and Caitlin, for waking up very early or staying on late on countless days with always ready to listen ears; Becky, for our long email tradition; Aley, for her passion and ease of friendship; and, a special someone whose emails and texts always seem to find the right words to place a smile upon my face or ease the worries in my life.

It is easier to practice self-kindness when these people and so many others remind me to with their kindness towards me.

Reply and share some of your ways of practicing self-kindness. How are you taking that concept into your own field of work or applying it in your life?


6 thoughts on “Helping Yourself in Order to Help Others”

  1. What a beautiful testimony to the importance of self-kindness. This past week I have done a very bad job of following my own wise advice. I’ve neglected the practices that nourish and balance myself in favour of ‘getting more work done’ and last night I was paying the price. It’s an ongoing process for me, this learning that taking time to care for myself is not a distraction from the work of service, but an essential part of it. Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. I could not be happier, especially to know that my little book of simple living has become a daily reminder to be good to yourself…! It is, as Marianne and others say, an ongoing lesson… and somehow it is only when I am “coincee” in places like Iraq and Gaza that I seem to relearn that it is not a luxury but a necessity, a responsibility to those we serve…! I adore you, and am carrying you in my heart from afar.

    1. Thank you, Allie. It has come to mean a lot to me and a big part of that is it reminds me of you! Hope all is well. Sending all my love to the Middle East.

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