Twenty-five years ago, my oldest friend “Chuck”was dying. I lived in Vancouver Washington, and we were locked in a snowstorm. I had to get down to Los Angeles to see him one last time, and PDX was closed. So…I packed up my car, and tried to drive down, praying I could get over the Siskiyou pass. I was only about ten miles down the road, inching along in the snow, when I accelerated and went into a skid, and then a 270 degree spin. I was perpendicular on the road, looked up, and saw a semi-truck heading right for me. I remember thinking…”I’m sorry, Chuck. I tried.”
The truck managed to stop about three feet from the driver’s side window. Defeated, I started my car, turned around, and inched home to my wife and child.
And my only thought was how I had disappointed my friend.
Many years later, “Chuck’s” son “Derek” friended me on Facebook. The kid was obviously lost, drifting, in emotional and financial trouble. I decided to do what I could to help him, but he had a bad combination of entitlement, low skills, unrealistic self-image and the belief that he had unique insight into Christianity, politics, psychology, and how the world really worked. He constantly spewed extreme Libertarian theories that made Sovereign Citizen types seem rational. Conspiracy theories of all kinds and in general no real grounding of understanding how to leverage this genius he felt he had to produce financial stability.
I actually helped raise money so he could pay his bills a couple of times, and offered to actually PAY HIM to read and synopsize my favorite self-help book Think And Grow Rich.
I don’t think he got further than the first chapter. But continued to complain about money. I began to pressure him a bit more to have some rigor in his thoughts, and he became verbally abusive. When I told him flatly that wouldn’t be allowed, he became rather ugly, unfriending me after telling me that his father, on his deathbed, said I was a bad friend, who hadn’t even come to see him.
Oh, my. Never heard from Derek again.
I knew that if I hadn’t done all I could to see Chuck, hadn’t literally risked my life, that Derek’s words would have devastated me. But because I knew there was nothing more I could have done, KNEW I’d gone above and beyond, I just sighed. Oh well. Even if Chuck had said that, he was dying, the cancer eating away at his brain. There was no way my old friend would have wanted me to die trying to see him. “I’m sorry, Chuck,” I thought. “I tried to help him.”
And I had. I couldn’t let him poison my page with his irrationality, his insecurity, but I’d tried.
We will all hit points where we can do no more. And we WILL run into people who try to savage us, to attack our sense of self, guilt-trip and gaslight us. This is why it is critical that in the core aspects of our lives, we have to know we’ve done all we can, that our actions express our values, our values and beliefs flow from the clearest experience and logic we can muster, and that those things that are based on faith are divided from those things we can “Prove” with facts.
Because when people have nothing, when they are desperate, they will strike out at you as a drowning swimmer might to a lifeguard. It is nothing personal. You don’t really exist to them. You are a projection of their egos, not an actual human being.
And they will try to manipulate you, stop you, control you, to their own benefit.
My sense of self, my sense of love for Chuck, went all the way down to the core. Had I not loved myself more, loved my wife and child more, I might have kept driving that day, motivated by some horrid guilt rather than love.
Had I not had that memory, Derek could have guilt-tripped me into letting him spew emotional and conceptual garbage all over my page, damaging people who trust me.
This was an extreme example. But instead of weakening me, Derek helped me understand even more clearly that SOMEONE needs to be the adult in the room, or the children are not safe. Derek is in trouble in life, will likely end in some low-level job, certain the world has cheated him, wondering where it all went wrong.
I’m sorry about that. But its not my responsibility. My responsibility is to be clear enough to teach teachers. The world is hard on the Dereks among us. Perhaps, though…if I can continue to grow and deepen my connection to the light…I can help him out of the darkness. But he’ll have to come to me. I cannot go to him.