During the opening act of a recent concert, I was sitting in the middle of a row trying to figure out the best route to the ladies’ room when I overheard the group of women next to me say they were going to the restroom. I told my husband Ben that I was going too because everyone in the aisle would move to let them out. I started to feel a little weird though following them so closely. So, when I ended up at the sinks beside the woman who had been sitting in the seat beside me, I felt the need to explain even though in retrospect I’m sure it was completely unnecessary. I said, “I think we’re sitting beside each other. I got up when you did so I could get out of the aisle more easily.” Thank goodness she was nice in response to my rambling. She said, “We should’ve grabbed you and said let’s go.”
I was surprised and delighted by her response. I thought, that’s the attitude we all need, especially one woman to another. My respect for her statement only grew over the course of the concert – we didn’t say another word to each other – but the group we were there to see was The Chicks, who are very into women’s empowerment. What if we as women stopped comparing and competing and instead adopted the woman at the concert’s approach? A new version of the old mantra of military soldiers, “no man left behind.”
If we said to one another, when you’re in a tough place, I’m going to come to you, grab you, and say let’s go. Not because we can fix each other’s problems but because we decide to be present in times of trouble. We promise that we won’t abandon our friends. We take care of and encourage them. We won’t let them isolate and hide in their misery. We insist on sharing their burdens. When a woman’s children are hurting, we rally to support her.
But we don’t limit our attention to those we know well, we also care about our community. When we see others suffering, we pour out our compassion. We stand with women who are disadvantaged or abused and don’t immediately blame them for the circumstances in which they find themselves.
In the Biblical book of Ruth, this oft-quoted verse appears: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16). Many times, this verse is used in support of spousal relationships, but these words are from Ruth to her mother-in-law Naomi after the deaths of their husbands when Naomi planned to return to her homeland. The story of Ruth and Naomi is about solidarity among women. Ruth stands by Naomi, and Naomi helps provide for Ruth. They are in it together.
Sometimes it’s hard to reach out to others. We worry that we’re reading the situation wrong or that our help won’t be welcomed. Maybe we need to merely let others know that we are open and available to support and encourage them. But sometimes we need to follow the concert woman’s advice: grab someone and say let’s go … to coffee or for a walk or to get help. What would happen if women stood up for other women on a continual basis? I, for one, would love to watch that world unfold.