by Joyce & Barry Vissell
There has been much in the news about the tragedies affecting millions of people. In my life, I hardly remember a time when so much has been happening to so many people in such a short period of time. There have been major fires in Oregon, Montana, Washington and Northern California, Hurricane Harvey in Texas, category 5 hurricane in Florida affecting Georgia and North Carolina, Cuba Puerto Rico, and Barbuda Island, and two devastating earthquakes in Mexico. Wow, that is a lot!! I was listening to a news reporter in Texas listing all of the destruction, and then he started talking about all of the volunteers who have showed up to help, and he started to cry. Through tears, he said that he has never seen humanity show up in such beautiful ways to be of service and help others in need. Without these volunteer helpers, it would have been a much worse tragedy.
Twenty seven years ago, our family experienced a 7.1 earthquake that totally destroyed our home while we were all in it. It was a blessing that both Barry and I, our two young girls, and infant son survived. After struggling to get out of the house, we stood on our country dirt road when, within minutes, a motorcycle roared up the road, and the man asked if we were OK. I could tell that he would have done anything to help us. We sent him down the road to an elderly couple who needed the help more than we did.
Within 48 hours, word got out about our homeless situation, and a friend found a house for us to rent. Another friend got a moving truck and thirty people showed up to help us. Most of our possessions were destroyed by the earthquake, but some things could be found and saved, like our clothes, pots, some furniture and books. Those thirty people helped to move us to the new house. I was still in shock and had to carry full-time my infant son who was traumatized by the earthquake. So I could not help. But those volunteers, many of whom I did not even know, did everything, provided food for us, and helped our daughters to feel safe by sifting through the rubble to find treasured toys and dolls.
Our oldest daughter’s middle school made an announcement for help. A teacher volunteered to come each morning and pick up Rami at our new home which was now forty minutes from the school. And the parents in Rami’s school raised $2,000 for us which helped tremendously as the new rent was four times the cost of our destroyed home.
I often think of the earthquake and, yes, it was a terrible experience, but I also think of the helpers and how much they gave. Many of these people also sustained damage to their homes, but since ours was so much worse, they concentrated on helping us first.
Nineteen years ago, we were traveling in British Columbia with our nine-year-old son. We were having a wonderful time exploring in our truck camper. We were way out in the wilderness going down a steep hill with a sharp hairpin turn when we noticed a large camper upside down on the side of the road. Even though we were rushing to get to a booked glacier tour, we stopped immediately. There in the upside-down camper, still buckled into their seats and hanging upside-down, was an older couple who were in shock. Standing next to this destroyed camper was another older couple who were part of the caravan. They told us that their friends’ brakes had failed and the camper had flipped. We were the first on the scene.
Barry, being a medical doctor, quickly assessed that the couple had no serious injuries, but were in shock and disbelief. He helped them out of the camper. Another couple stopped and said they would quickly drive to the nearest town two hours away and call for help. We stayed with these people for hours, helping them to get out of their camper to the safety of the other camper. All four of these elderly people needed help and support. None of them were doing well emotionally. We talked with them, held their hands, and comforted them. We reminded them again and again that they were all unharmed and that it was just the camper that was now gone. It seemed like we didn’t do that much, but they kept saying over and over again that we were like angels to them. Even our young son was being so reassuring to them. No one else stopped even though many passed.
We missed the paid-for adventure, but we got something so much more. Our hearts felt full as we finally drove off. Our son remarked, “I know we missed going out on the glacier, but this was a better experience. My heart feels happy that we were able to comfort those people.”
I feel that we always need to be ready to stop and help when we see a need. There is always the temptation to follow your schedule and feel you do not have the time or that you probably could not do that much. But the love and support of others means so much. And even if you are far away from the disaster, giving money and sending prayers also help so much. The amount we receive back within our hearts from helping is much more than the time or money that we give.
On my Facebook, I saw a short video of Mr. Rogers giving advice to children in case they are ever in a scary situation. He said, “If you look for the helpers, you will know there is hope. The helpers will always be there.” How beautiful if we could be one of those helpers.
Here are a few opportunities to bring more love and growth into your life, at the following longer events led by Barry and Joyce Vissell:
Oct 11-17 — Assisi Retreat, Italy
Feb 4-11, 2018 — Hawaii Couples Retreat on the Big Island
Jul 22-27, 2018 — Shared Heart Summer Retreat at Breitenbush Hot Springs, OR
About the authors:
Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA, who are widely regarded as among the world’s top experts on conscious relationship and personal growth. They are the authors of The Shared Heart, Models of Love, Risk to Be Healed, The Heart’s Wisdom, Meant to Be, and A Mother’s Final Gift.
Call 831-684-2299 for further information on counseling sessions by phone or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops. Visit their web site at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.