This is one of the first articles I wrote last year. It’s about an experience that took place at the lowest point in my life. I feel lighter now, and it’s important that you feel that – so I’ve added some new perspective.
No matter what your circumstances may be, I hope this article helps you find comfort in community and the courage to say YES when you are offered support, or you are in a position to offer it. 🥰
The day after my son passed away, my life was a blur and there were a lot of people flowing in and out of my home. At one point, I noticed a man in his early 30s sitting by himself. I didn’t know him and figured he was an acquaintance of my husband’s, which he was. For much of that week, this man sat alone in our living room…watching…waiting…and making himself available for whatever anyone needed.
Practically hours after the funeral, this man called my husband to ask if he and his new bride could take the two of us out for a steak dinner.
“He’s pretty insistent,” my husband said, “But I assume I should say no, right?”
I hadn’t eaten in a week and wasn’t sure I ever would again.
“Say “YES,” I corrected him, surprised at the words that spilled out of my mouth.
The woman I used to be was more introverted. She was proficient at saying NO. And she prided herself on being practical and rational, not to mention responsible.
A steak dinner following my son’s funeral and days before his memorial service would have been preposterous to that woman on every level.
But I had just endured the biggest and most inconceivable loss of my life, and suddenly I was someone new. I was someone who said YES. And I appreciated anyone and everyone who wanted to be a member of our community and considered us part of theirs.
So, the very next day, off to dinner, we went.
Mr. Steak Dinner Man and his pretty blonde wife picked us up and took us to a brightly lit trendy restaurant, where we were seated at a table usually reserved for those eager to be seen. For ninety minutes, these two love birds told us all about the day they met. They recounted intricate details of their wedding day. And they shared what seemed like hundreds of pictures of their honeymoon.
Saturated with grief, I couldn’t process any of it. All I remember is nibbling on a morsel of steak, taking frequent trips to the restroom to gather myself, and staring longingly at a dark booth in the corner where I wanted to hide.
But hiding was exactly what Mr. Steak Dinner Man did not want me and my husband to do.
Because when tragedy strikes, human beings do not hide. We come together. We share our time, energy, and resources. And, like an ancient tribe fighting for survival, we make sacrifices for the greater good.
That’s simply how we are designed.
“Humans survive in groups, not in isolation,” says bestselling author and journalist Sebastian Junger in his powerful book TRIBE.
In fact, Junger explains, “Humans are so strongly wired to help one another and enjoy such enormous social benefits from doing so that people regularly risk their lives for complete strangers.”
Mr. Steak Dinner Man may not have risked his life for us, but he certainly went beyond the call of duty for virtual strangers and helped us take our very first step back into the real world.
It’s still unclear to me whether he knew how much his bold invitation might impact us at the time, or whether he was just so clueless about how to help that he extended an offer he figured any rational person would refuse.
Either way, his mission was complete, and he had served us well. After he dropped us back home, I knew we’d never see him again.
But I also knew that something very important had happened to me that night, and it wasn’t until I read Junger’s book a few months later that I understood what that was:
Mr. Steak Dinner Man showed me that members of a genuine community show up to help feed, protect, and hold each other up.
He also taught me that everyone has something meaningful to contribute to humanity, and that, unfortunately, it sometimes takes a tragedy or some kind of unexpected jolt for us to figure out what that is.
Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Steak Dinner Man showed me that serving others is incredibly healing for everyone involved, and the ripple effects are undeniable.
I’m happy to report that since first sharing this story, Mr. Steak Dinner Man has reappeared! My husband forwarded the original article to him, and while he was as touched as I hoped he’d be, he was also saddened that ‘I knew we’d never see him again.’
“That is my only regret,” he told my husband. “I have not stayed in touch. Another steak dinner is in order.”
“Yes!” I responded to this news with a giant smile on my face. The word YES had sparked the beginning of my healing journey, and I am always excited to see where it leads me next.
Whether Mr. Steak Dinner Man reappears in my life again or not, he has taught me that serving others has no limits when it comes with the best of intentions.
In fact, it is during both the best and worst of times, that the ancient practice of serving “our tribe” can heal our hearts, slowly and purposefully, little by little, from the inside out.
P.S. Curious about the healing powers of yoga? Join me this Tuesday, Feb 13th, for this month’s Instagram Live. (It doesn’t matter if you love or hate the physical practice of yoga. This is about its healing powers.) I am excited to introduce you to Joan Hyman – one of my favorite people and yoga instructors who is not only featured in my recently published book, Tommy’s Field, but also played a big role in my healing journey. More information below.