Let me tell you about that time I took a tumble on the sidewalk of 38th street in NYC…
I was walking, briskly, as most New Yorkers do, following the flow of foot traffic across the street. It just so happens that the road was torn up at this intersection for construction so it was bumpy under my feet.
And maybe it’s because I hadn’t eaten all day and was feeling a little woozy, or maybe it was because my right ankle isn’t very strong after breaking my leg/ankle in 3 places in 2015, or maybe it was because a young woman excitedly ran in front of me, bumping me slightly when she saw her friend on the other side… maybe it was a combination of all of the above…
But just as I got to the other side and went to step up onto the curb of the sidewalk, my right foot betrayed me and I toppled forward, my hands stopping me from eating pavement and my backpack flying up over my head. I felt one knee hit HARD and the other, the knee of my bad leg, less hard but also coming down onto the sidewalk.
For a brief second, as I was going down, I reached what I like to call the “point of no return”. It is here where time seems to freeze, or at least to slow down tremendously. You know you’re going down but there is nothing you can do to stop it.
At this point, you’re completely out of control and you’re just along for the ride… the hard, embarrassing ride straight to the ground. It was inevitable.
As soon as I made contact with the ground, someone seemed to pop right out of the crowd and was immediately by my side. I heard the words, “Whoa! Are you okay?”
And I looked up from the pavement to see a tall blond man with surfer-style hair looking at me with genuine concern.
“Yes, thank you,” I said.
“…but my pride isn’t”, I thought.
He reached out a hand to help me up and I gladly took it, because I was feeling a bit rattled from the fall.
“Bummer! It happens.” Was his reply.
And I had to smile, despite the blood running down my leg into my sock and the pain in my elbow and the fact that I had torn a hole in my favorite outfit. Because that was the truth, right?
We ALL fall down.
And there is no shame in falling down. There is no joy at laughing at others when they fall. And there is no honor in turning the other way and ignoring someone’s struggle.
I’d never seen this man before in my life, but he rushed to my side to help me up. He asked me if I was okay and he waited for my answer. He took the time to care. He made sure I was alright before moving on with his own life.
Even on the busy streets of NYC, for a complete stranger, he showed compassion to someone who had taken a spill.
But how often do we do this for those around us? How often do we do this for ourselves?
Life is not about never falling.
It’s about getting back up when you do. It’s about helping others up when they fall. It’s about remembering the humanity in us all – the common link that binds us and connects us throughout all time and space.
And when you fall – because you WILL fall – don’t beat yourself up about it. Don’t allow yourself to be consumed by shame or fear of falling again.
Get up. Wipe off the dirt and blood and keep on going.
KEEP. ON. GOING.