He aha te mea nui o te ao
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
What is the most important thing in the world?
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people
Around a year ago, along with my laptop, camera and kindle, most of my jewellery was stolen. Thankfully all of my photos of Zoe were backed up on a hard drive I kept at work, but I was devastated, because much of the jewellery was a memorial to Zoe. Jewellery she had helped me choose the beads for and “supervised” the making of, lockets with pictures of her, pieces with hearts and butterflies I had collected, been given or made in her memory and the thing it hurt the most to lose – a little glass bottle pendant with a lock of her hair that I cut after she died.
After a week of dealing of dealing with the police, insurance companies and the initial shock of feeling vulnerable and violated, I thought about where I was at. “I should be feeling worse than this” I thought. “But I feel fine – even better than fine.” Here’s what happened in that week.
After a day of feeling sorry for myself, a friend rang to tell me her husband had suffered a heart attack the night I was burgled. Reality check. Perspective. What is losing some jewellery when my friend had faced the prospect of losing her husband? (He is doing ok now).
Then hundreds of people shared my photos of the stolen jewellery on facebook in the hopes of getting it back. Friends from my page, their friends, people who like The Angel Zoe Kindness Project page and their friends all made the effort to do something that had little chance of working, but was a chance to show that they cared.
A story appeared in the New Zealand Herald – another bid for someone with a heart to send my things back to me. And while it didn’t work, this story too was shared thousands of times and people who saw it reached out to me. Complete strangers told me their stories of loss and grief, people who remembered Zoe from school or performance lessons shared their memories, neighbours offered their support, people I’d lost touch with years ago sent messages, colleagues stopped by or emailed with a kind word and one bought me flowers. An artist even offered me one of his beautiful prints and I was able to connect another bereaved mum with an online support group.
By the end of the week I had well and truly had yet another lesson that the most important thing in the world is indeed the people. Where I “should” have felt sad, I felt uplifted and cared for, connected to people. Not that I still wouldn’t like to have my jewellery back…
I was reminded of this experience a couple of weeks ago when I got to spend a weekend with other bereaved families from all over the country. We had all faced the unbearable loss of our children, so it was a weekend filled with sad stories, grief and tears. By the end of the weekend you would think that we should have been feeling thoroughly depressed. But it was also a time to share memories, to speak our children’s names and have them honoured, to share experiences, to simply be with and connect with people who got it. For some, it was their first chance to share their experience with others who were on the same journey. So it was a chance to be heard, but also a chance to be the one who listens.
By the end of this weekend, I felt if not exactly uplifted, then at peace, connected to a shared human experience. I was reminded once again of the value of taking the time to reach out and make a connection with others. Connections we sometimes feel we are too busy, too afraid of rejection, too afraid of raw emotion to make.
A big part of who I think of as my tribe are the bereaved parents, the families with children fighting cancer, the survivors. But it’s more than that.
My tribe is also the people who don’t think twice before reaching out to others in empathy. Or maybe they do think twice, but they take a big breath and do it anyway.
I believe this tribe is growing in the world. It’s one anyone can join.