May 3, 2021 | Victor B. De Los Santos

Unite is a good thing.

Typically, my column highlights the change that can be made when a for-profit business or an individual unites with a nonprofit. But being isolated due to COVID-19 has inspired me to write about reuniting with myself.

In 1999, I attended the YMCA Youth and Government leadership conference on Lake Wenatchee in Eastern Washington. We were given a bit of time away from the group to think, keep a journal, and focus on our thoughts, so I decided to take a little stroll along the Wenatchee River. It was a lovely afternoon in the forest, and I felt so connected to nature.

I may have been fated to find that place that day, one that has had a lasting impact on me for over twenty years. I was at a bend in the river where hundreds of salmon, in groups called binds, were finishing their journey. The current was strong, but they would not stop swimming with all their strength. They struggled intuitively upriver, bruised and battered but with an indomitable spirit. I knew that they had were swimming hundreds of miles back to their birthplace, hoping to complete their journey and spawn, creating the next cycle of life. Their reward for all this tribulation? Their lives would end. Talk about the ultimate paying it forward! They strove to leave the world richer, with no benefit to themselves. Talk about the ultimate paying it forward!

Observing this circle of life was pretty amazing. But what has stuck in my mind for more than two decades was those particular salmon that only had five feet left to swim around the bend, to where the water was calm—but couldn't fight the current any longer and were swept downstream. I wanted to pick them up and help them across their finish line, just as others had lifted me up from time to time.

Many times I have used this story to help me find strength to continue the journey God intended. I think we humans are more intuitive than we think, shepherded by that inner voice or gut instinct. I even had a fall salmon tattooed on my forearm to remind myself to continue following the inner compass that is guiding me on my way.

Like many others, there are times when I've felt bruised and battered and felt myself losing my spirit, but with the love of friends and family and a deep connection to my higher power, I have regained the strength to continue. Today, I show up, engage in life, and remain teachable. I stay attuned to my instinct that guides me to pay it forward and contribute to the world that is my birthplace and home.

COVID-19 has battered our world and our community like a raging current. Our first responders and essential workers have picked us up and carried us to calmer waters, but the current is still strong. Still, each of us can carry our "bind" forward and change our world. Take this opportunity to reunite with yourself and connect with your own intuitive strength that will guide you to become the change you want to see in the world. (Put your mask on first, however!)

And remember: uniting (virtually!) with a local nonprofit is still a good thing.