When a circle of helpers meet a circle of needs the bodies shuffle around and a new circle is made.
I am interested in how people belong to circles, how circles evolve, and how “helping” and “needing” draw people to the circle or push them away.
There was smoke last night billowing up from my neighbor’s place. I wandered up the road to see if the fire was under control. Where I live, everyone burns their property this time of year. Sometimes, when the wind kicks up, a fire can get out of hand quickly. I wondered if she needed any help.
I like to be helpful. That’s my MO. It’s how I belong. Helping is my front door of friendship. “You need something to eat?” I can cook. “You need a ride?” I can drive. “You need me to listen while you unload about your sister who tied you to her bedpost 30 years ago?” I’m your gal.
So I wandered up the road, following the clouds of smoke, in hopes of finding a place in her life by offering help.
But it was peaceful and lovely. There were no fires to put out. I lingered there, unneeded… until we ended up chatting while the dead grass turned to black soot and the sun set, burning white clouds into flame.
The truth was I had had a hard day. I was complaining. I was lonely and I didn’t know where I belonged anymore.
And then we were laughing.
This is the magic of friends and fire and big skies filled with a setting sun.
I brought cupcakes to the last writing class I taught at the facility where they were being detained. They lit up when tears caught in the corner of my eyes because that was all the confirmation they needed to be assured they’d impacted me. Changed me. Belonged to me.
There are so many times in my life that I head down the road thinking I’m going to go offer help. “I’ll teach the prisoners,” I say, eager to march through the front door of belonging. Then I am the one who gains clarity on the other side of my pen.
I love that life is a circle.
I love that every time I think I’m offering my gift to the world, the world lays a present in my lap. This is humbling and hopeful at every turn.
I went to help fight a fire at my neighbor’s house and I ended up venting about my bad day. I took my pencils and paper to prison and learned about freedom.
I am in need. Will you come sit at my fire circle? For real? I want to sit in a circle with others where needs and helps are equally exchanged and one currency is not more valuable than another, but each simply allows more space around the fire. I’m not even sure yet what I’m trying to make. I’m just thinking about circles and fire. What if I lit the match in September? Would you come add your hands?
Are you more comfortable helping or needing? What is at the center of your circle that links you to other people? Have you ever had a fire get away from you?