Make That Difference

It’s nearly the end of 2014, and there just one final story to share:

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work.

Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied, “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

–adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley

 

I was reminded of this story when I lost a friend to suicide a few months ago.

I couldn’t save him. Tapestry couldn’t save him. As irrational as it was, it felt like I had failed him, and myself, and everyone who supported my endeavour.

I questioned myself over the effectiveness of what I was doing with Tapestry.

Doubting, blaming, hiding. Which starfish did I save? Did I save any at all? Do I make a difference in anyone’s life? Does any of this count? For whom exactly?

Image Credit: dreamstime.com
Image Credit: dreamstime.com

The solemn news collided with a spate of bad events that happened on both home and work fronts, which further eroded my confidence and sense of direction. A hailstorm had arrived, and my sanity took the beating.

I was so afraid that I might slip and never get up again. I wanted to just disappear under that rapidly descending fog of depression.

Yet, something in me sprang to life when a Tapestry reader reached out with a simple gesture.

She asked how I was doing, and thanked me for being such an encouragement to others.

Somehow I gained an unlikely sense of peace and strength. The relapse I was bracing myself for never arrived.

Then it dawned on me.

There’s one starfish that was saved that day. And that starfish… was me.

The Miracle of Giving

Who knew that a small act of kindness turned out to be the biggest miracle?

Although I made the necessary steps to ensure I had enough support during that vulnerable period, there’s nothing like the unexpected kindness and goodwill of a stranger.

Somehow in giving hope to others, I have in turn gained hope.

It is a paradox that only seems to exist in the realm of humanity. An inexplicable connection.

That is the power of sharing our stories; the very essence of The Tapestry Project SG.

When we own our stories, we own our recovery. We ignite hope in others, which in turn kindles our flame.

Small Setup, Big Hearts

As the year draws to an end, I find myself filled with gratitude and awe.

In the past 12 months we have shared over 50 Tapestry stories, with more than half of them written not by seasoned authors or mental healthcare professionals, but by the average person on the street. For many, it was the very first time they shared their recovery story.

And already, there are new stories scheduled for next year.

Witnessing the growing number of people coming forward with their story signals an encouraging, positive change in our social sphere. More are becoming increasingly receptive to being part of the conversation when it comes to mental illness and recovery, for connection, education and empowerment.

Image Credit: inspirably.com
Image Credit: inspirably.com

The Tapestry Project SG receives an average of 1,170 reads each month. To serve the community better, I’ve formed a small team of volunteers who are just as excited as I am to roll out the plans for Tapestry in 2015. All of us have full-time jobs and some, like me, are persons-in-recovery. I am truly honoured to be serving alongside them, and our faithful readers.

Will you be part of our cause for mental health?

Let’s get the word out. There is power in story — your Tapestry story.

See you in 2015!

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