We’ve all heard the phrase “sharing is caring.” We’ve all learned this lesson from the moment our tiny brains began to soak up the world around us. It’s so important for us as a society to be selfless when it comes to sharing. But, I’m not referring to sharing physical items like toys or food (Lindsay doesn’t share food).
I’m referring to stories – personal experiences that we may not think to share with people outside of our inner circle. When we volunteer to share our stories – to expose the messy, complicated parts of our lives – we’re speaking up for the people that might be dealing with those messy parts of life alone.
The more we share, the more windows of opportunity there will be for someone to feel a little less alone knowing that someone else is dealing with the same thing. The benefits of sharing are not entirely one-sided. The power of sharing is universal.
For me, sharing my compassion and experiences has always came naturally. It fills me with joy, knowing that I have helped someone who might not even realize they need help. I had an experience that reaffirmed this power – an experience that will always remain a huge part of who I am and who I want to continue to be as a person.
My sister and I took our birthright trip together; we joined a group of strangers on a 2-week trip to Israel. During the trip, one of the activities was to get to know one another by sharing something that we valued in life – physical objects, difficult experiences, loved ones.
When I began to think about what I wanted to share, my brain immediately went to my experience with OCD – something I valued deeply. I felt a flutter of excitement to share that I was living with this mental disorder. I know – it’s definitely not normal to have the urgency and passion to share such a personal detail with a group of strangers, but that’s just me.
My turn was getting closer and my mind was going into overdrive – maybe it was too much to share with people I had just met and would continue to be with for a couple more days. The OCD of course had some input – “Are you sure you want to share this? What if someone judges you? What if it upsets someone? What if it makes people feel uncomfortable?” What if. The list went on and on and on and on.
I knew what I truly wanted to do, even though Danny DeVito was hollering from the sidelines. Who was I to stand in the way of the power of sharing – of the possibility that someone else in the room was going through the same thing and needed to know they were not alone? I decided I would not allow the OCD to determine what I was going to share and not share; the potential impact this might have on others was too important.
The moment had arrived – I looked at the group as I prepared to share that I was living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Seeing my sister sitting across the way. I could tell she knew exactly what I was going to say. By the look on her face, she seemed slightly concerned for me – that I was going to share something so personal that might not be taken well by others (we’ll cut her some slack – this was before she went to therapy and was diagnosed with OCD). But, as I began sharing I saw that she was proud of me and knew it meant a lot to me to share my story.
I explained to everyone that this disorder had shaped me into the person I am today and how proud I was of this person. I felt a rush of joy when I looked up and realized that everyone in the room had tears in their eyes, smiles beaming toward me. It was in that moment I knew I could no longer keep my OCD to myself. Of course, things were never that simple. My OCD decided to chime in one last time, questioning if I had made the right choice, or if I had shared too much. But, when I saw my sister after, she said what I needed to hear, “don't let the OCD win this moment.”
It was an emotional couple of hours listening to everyone’s stories, so we all decided to spend the rest of the day relaxing outside. A couple of people approached me to let me know how amazing it was that I was able to share what I did. To my surprise, they wanted to hear more about what I was going through. Another sat by my side. He wanted to thank me for sharing my story and to tell me how much it resonated with him. He began to open up more about himself – what he had been through and what he wanted to accomplish in life.
And, just when I thought the emotional wave had passed, another member of the group – an especially shy one – had pulled me aside and opened up to me about his social anxiety. He was comforted knowing that someone else on the trip was experiencing their own anxiety. After hearing my story, he realized he might have symptoms of OCD as well, something he never thought of before. He told me he no longer felt alone and gained the confidence to be himself with the group. What’s even more amazing? I could actually see a difference in his demeanor for the rest of the trip. It was in this moment I realized I had the power to make a difference in someone else’s life – just by telling my own story.
Even the smallest connection can have the biggest impact on someone else’s life. When we see ourselves in others, it not only allows our empathy to grow stronger, but it provides a moment of self reflection and learning from others’ experiences. We can start to see each other in a whole new light. Like I said – the power of sharing is universal.