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Where to Begin

What do you need from me?” the sheriff asked.
“Walk with us,” the people replied.
And he said, “Let’s walk.”

Many years ago, Margaret Mead, the late anthropologist, was asked by a student what she considered to be the very first sign of civilization in culture. The student was anticipating a response like pottery, jewelry, coins or a knife crafted from stone – the kinds of artifacts we see in museums. But Margaret Mead surprised the student with her response: a healed human femur. 

The particular femur she was referring to was a 15,000-year-old bone found at an archeological site. It had been broken and had subsequently healed. This meant someone had stayed with this person during the six weeks their bone needed to heal. Someone had tended to and cared for this person, who wouldn’t have been able to escape predators or hunt on their own. 

Helping others through hard times is where civilization began. Without each other, we cannot survive. Our compassion and caring toward others is the foundation of our society as we look out for those around us.

So where do we begin? We start by asking, “What do you need from me?” We stick together. We carry the weight when someone can’t do it on their own. We bring them snacks and water while their femur heals. And while we are walking next to each other or sitting side by side, we attempt to better understand the stories of those whose journeys and struggles are different. That seems like a way to begin. 

Author: Alyssa Forcehimes, PhD

An expert in behavior change, substance use disorders and empathic communication, Dr. Alyssa Forcehimes serves as President of The Change Companies® and Train for Change Inc.® She lives in Arizona with her husband and two daughters.