If you are then wise, you will show yourself rather as a reservoir than a canal. For a canal spreads abroad water as it receives it, but a reservoir waits until it is filled before overflowing, and thus communicates, without loss to itself, its superabundant water.
-Bernard of Clairvaux
Rudy and I woke up last Friday at about 4 am to jump on a bus to San Miguel. We were disappointed that by the time the bus was picking us up, it didn’t include our host, Jorge, on board who was supposed to take us to observe his uncle’s drug and alcohol recovery program in order to have a better evaluation of the practicality of another one closer to San Jose de la Montaña for the people here. T.I.L.A. Although folk here are notably more consistent in following through with their appointments and commitments than folk generally were in Africa, still nothing here happens until it happens. This Is Latin America.
I went back to sleep. After waking up, I made some personal visits to get to know some of the people more. On my way back, Lupita (Pichiche’s pastor’s wife) invited me along with some of her family from out of town to take a boat up to the beach. I reviewed the idea with Rudy, and we both agreed: this was some much needed R&R.
After a couple hours of some improvised version of water polo in waist-deep waters and some impromptu musings on what it’d take to get the community unified, we all went for a deep-end swim. I had gone for one earlier in the day and had gone out pretty far without any trouble, after all we were still in a bay—no waves of any kind. This round, I went out plenty far, much farther than any of the others cared to venture. In fact, the only one still in the water besides me at this point is Rudy who’s still quite a distance closer to shore. I notice that, contrary to the first outing, the current’s pulling me quite strongly mostly parallel to shore, but it also had added to my ease in swimming the direction I had been headed: away from shore.
It occurs to me that I’m not going to make it back with the casual pace I’m currently expending. Rudy, still several dozen yards away, starts to tell me he’s going to need some help. I tell him to keep me posted. He says, “Ya, I’m worn out, there’s no way I can make it.” I yelled to him to keep calm, keep breathing. He was up current and closer to shore. It took a bit of a fight against the current which wore down on me pretty durably by the time I reached him. Although, I’m confident I still had enough in the tank to make it on my own, there was no way I could absorb Rudy’s drag, the current’s resistance, and redeem the both of us to shore. I could only keep us afloat, drifting helplessly outward. (Even in a worse case scenario, I’m confident we could have kept afloat and ended up either in a tangled mangrove forest or the beach near the mouth of the bay. Either destination wouldn’t have required much of us besides floating along the current’s pull.) Rudy began to panic. I emphasized the pertinence of keeping his calm, told him to picture himself training on the football pitch, to just breath through it. His right foot started to cramp up, but he did a great job of staying settled. There wasn’t much of a chance without the boat. We called for the driver to bring it around, and minutes later Rudy and I were able to catch our breath and stretch out on the boat.
I can’t save anyone without a full tank. I can hardly keep them afloat unless I’ve got overflow to spare. If I’m well exhausted keeping myself in a good position, how can I expect to bring anyone else to shore with me? Where do you go to get your sustenance and overflow? How often do you check what you’ve got in the tank? Having the heart to help someone isn’t enough. If I’m commissioned to love, I’m then also commissioned to keep myself filled up to overflowing in order to have a real shot to love them in an actual, effectual way. My overflow is my responsibility.