I am a chronic pain patient. There is no time in my life when I am not in pain. After many years of treatment and non-treatment, I am as stable as I can get.  Now I help others when I can.

I don't offer my help from a sense of guilt or for profit, save perhaps emotional. Others who are where I was or are where I am have helped me and do help me, and that is as it should be. I don't help because she is pretty - I have never seen her face. I don't help because he may further my career - I have none; pain took that away long ago. I help because our common humanity makes us the same creature; I help because our common pain makes us brothers and sisters; what diminishes them diminishes me, and makes us all less.

I have stood at that precipice he stands at now, the terrible abyss yawning beneath my feet. I know the voice of the darkness that surrounds her, calling her name in the voice of helplessness, telling her how useless the single, dim candle of her life is in a universe of suns. I know the the desolate isolation of being alone, the pain screaming above all else in a voice only he can hear. I know the feeling and the sound of another strand in a frayed lifeline snapping as a doctor or a loved one disbelieves. I too have the same bowed shoulders of one who waits, bound, as every stone-heavy, passing minute settles and adds to the mountain that she must carry, hoping that this one is not the last of an unrelieved accumulation that she will crumple under. I know the snide tones of the unimaginative, healthy professionals, family and friends that erodes his pride and sense of worth.

I help because others helped me, and not to pass this on would be a callous, greedy use of such a gift. I help because the journey through that place called pain that makes the valley of the shadow of death look
like a sweet promise is one that should never be walked alone. I help for the courage of those who, from the midst of their own pain, reach out their hands to others who stand a fraction closer to the abyss.

Sometimes there is little I can do but listen and believe, but I know the value of that. It is a small thing, but a small thing in a void is like a candle in a dark room: small to the one who lights it, but a great gift to one who has lived in darkness so long that light is all but forgotten.

I help because I will allow that precipice to claim no one without a fight, I will permit no soul to be lost in that void if by some means I can help guide it back to the light that is our mutual nature, beginning and destiny. I help because I have learned to love myself, and that love is a wellspring from which all who are decent and caring may draw.  I help because love acts, and I will not be still in the face of abuse and need.

I help because I can, and being able, because I find I must if I am to remain true to mySelf.  I help because where one alone is a weak victim, many together are strong, and can accomplish anything.

by Dan Schweitzer
February, 2000