Is this going to be helpful?

Is this going to be helpful?This past week, I attended a full day virtual event that navigated some of what I do at work. From 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., I listened and took notes of insights and trends. Yet the most important communication offered was this question, “Is this going to be helpful?”

Not metrics, analytics, or even the consensus among nearly 2,000 others that we are a little burnt out. What I walked away with was a question.

Is this going to be helpful?

Since mid March, I’ve been dreaming more than before. I dream about skiing so many mountains and off a little cliff here and there. I’ve dreamt of running, flying kites and even swimming mile after mile in the university’s natatorium. I’ve dreamt of a hand holding mine, offering water in deserted canyons and streets, hiking, climbing, camping and laughing, moving and staying, and my children and friends.

My children and friends.

I’ve dreamt of writing, reading quirky books to kids in Colorado and researching in Oxford or some other dappled British school. Of traveling light and listening to others’ stories – helping them tell their stories and then coming home to a him and a pup. Or coming home to myself.

This traveling light and listening to others’ stories is a thread running through most of these daydreams and nighttime respites. And at first, I was troubled that these dreams were neither noble nor worthy of celebration.

I love to ski and if I could dream of skiing and flying and family and friends around a campfire most nights, I’d sleep more. Just today on a walk around a park with the fuzzy pup, I realized there’s no need to judge those dreams. They, too, are worth celebrating. They give me nudges of hope and direction. Note to self: not everything has to be obviously “helpful.”

Is this going to be helpful?

This time of slowing down and dreaming has also meant dealing with my most unhelpful sh*t as I run out of distractions and hiding places. I am experiencing a shedding of old skins – not all of them – and my hope is that this means a truer offering of self to a complex world of simple creatures. Offering myself rather than what I think is needed or wanted.

I’ve sat under starry skies and in the first shine of morning watching birds bathe in puddles, contrails and the tiny beautiful actions of a community that has slowed down. It is one of the most magnificent things to come of this time when so many suffer and those who have suffered so much for longer than this pandemic, are being seen for who they are – essential and worth more than they are paid.

Is this going to be helpful?

I hope so.

Let’s not waste the time we are given and let’s not assume our experience is everyone else’s experience. Instead of going in with “is it right” or some variation of “will this advance me or my interests,” can we sometimes add in the question of “Is this going to be helpful?”

To the nurses, CNAs, doctors and grocers, caretakers, public works folks and emergency responders, librarians and teachers – we see you. We see you more clearly now than before.

Adventure and Wonder, Friends.

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