“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Desmond Tutu
When areas experience a disaster such as a flood, fire, tornado, hurricane, earthquake, car accident, or ice storm a plethora of people from everywhere will jump to action to help where they can, doing what they can. Right now during this COVID19 pandemic we are experiencing a mental health, emotional crisis of epic proportions. People are hurting and not doing well. Some of the people who are hurting and struggling emotionally are people who typically were in healthy emotional places.
In physical disasters there are visual reminders of what occurred. Houses are destroyed by high winds, forests gone due to fires, cars twisted and crushed. Emotional hurts are invisible, sometimes hidden under a smile, sometimes dismissed for a variety of reasons. Yet just like all other seen disasters they are real, present, and causing pain.
Here is a refresher about me and what I do. I head up Kindness Champions while working full time as a social worker and substance abuse counselor in a high school. In addition I have a part-time private therapy practice.
When school resumed in the fall, students were coming to school on a hybrid model where they attend classes two days a week in person and the remainder online. We have about 1400 students in the high school I work at. A teenage boy that I have worked with for a few years came to see me one day. His concern was for others. He told me students in the school were too quiet, including the students who are usually outgoing and positive. He told me they needed help. All of them. This teenage boy is dealing with some significant challenges outside of school (and I mean significant) his concern is for others. He was seeking input into what he could do to help the silence he was experiencing around him.
A few days ago I met for the first time with an 11th grade student who had broke down crying in a class. This student was feeling overwhelmed and stressed. She had missed some school because her parents had COVID, she was caring for her siblings and she was missing her friends as they came to school on the days she was learning from home. As we talked it became clear that she had been feeling depressed and anxious for a long, long time. When I asked her if she had shared it with anyone her answer was no. Why not I asked? She did not want to bother anyone. She did not want stress anyone because she knew everyone is dealing with so much stress. I then asked her if she would want to know if someone she cares about was struggling emotionally. She said ‘yes’ because she would want to help them. It helped give her an aha moment that for starters we needed to talk to her parents.
There are many other stories like this. There are many stories like this for adults, some that I work with, some that I counsel in my private practice, and some that are my friends, neighbors, hair dresser, random person at the grocery store. There are stories like this everywhere.
Sometimes people are unsure of what to do when someone is struggling emotionally. No one wants to say or do the “wrong” thing. I am hear to tell you with every fiber of my being that showing you care in the ways you show you care is always the right thing. Saying you care is always the right thing to do. I am a trained mental health professional. Trust me there are times I unintentionally say something that was not helpful. I do not have a perfect package of words to pick from. I don’t. What I do have is a lot of care and love in my heart. What I do have is the willingness, even in my personal life, when I see someone struggling, even though it might feel uncomfortable, to do something. So if you see something, say something.
“Never underestimate the difference you can make in the lives of others. Step forward, reach out, and help. Reach out to someone that might need a lift.” Pablo
An article in Time Magazine by Jenny Santi “The Secret to Happiness is Helping Others” says “And so we learn early: It is better to give than to receive. The venerable aphorism is drummed into our heads from our first slice of a shared birthday cake. But is there a deeper truth behind the truism? The resounding answer is yes. Scientific research provides compelling data to support the anecdotal evidence that giving is a powerful pathway to personal growth and lasting happiness. Through fMRI technology, we now know that giving activates the same parts of the brain that are stimulated by food and sex. Experiments show evidence that altruism is hardwired in the brain—and it’s pleasurable. Helping others may just be the secret to living a life that is not only happier but also healthier, wealthier, more productive, and meaningful.”
So helpers where to begin because right now this emotional disaster needs all the care and help we all can give.
- Start with you. Yep you. If you are struggling emotionally and not telling anyone because you don’t want to “bother” them tell someone. It could be your partner, brother, sister, best friend, someone you are dating, Doctor. People want to know when we are struggling, just like we want to know when they are struggling. Get help and support for you.
- Take care of you. Eat healthy, get some exercise, make sure you get your zzzz’s and some down time. I can feel when I am not at my helping best and depleted. When that happens I make sure to do some things I love to do to. This fills up my energy so I am emotionally present in all areas of my life, professional and personal.
- Reach out to people in your life. Check in on your peeps. If something does not seem right with a person near and dear to your heart trust your gut. Take an action that says I care about you for others. Send a card, write a thank you note, if money allows make a care package just because. The Dollar Store is filled with fun items where you can spend $5.00 and bring a lot of joy. There does not need to be an event that happens to show you care and appreciate another human being. Be the event that shows care and brings joy.
- When you are out and about look up and say hello. Give someone a face mask smile (our eyes do light up when we smile). Be helpful. Hold the door for someone. If you physically can park farther away from the store so others can park closer. In traffic let other cars in ahead of you. If you can pay for the car behind you. Do something.
- Help in your community. You can volunteer in many ways from writing letters or calling seniors, stocking food pantries, walking dogs in shelters and building houses, and delivering food to people. If you have the finances give money or food items. Help your neighbor. Do something.
- Safety experts tells us to pay attention to our surroundings when we are out and about. I use that model in my daily living. I pay attention to the people I came in contact with in my surroundings. Even those times I am at the grocery store feeling rushed, and a stranger wants to tell me a story about their life I will take the time to listen. I have learned that when I don’t take the time to hear someone out I feel crappy after. I have time. You do too. Am I perfect at this. Nope. Yet I really try my best to do my best.
Ronald Reagan said “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”
So amazing helpers our hurting world needs your helper. By doing more for others it will help you feel better in all areas of your life. I have reflected on the times people were emotionally there for me. It made a huge difference in my life. Recently in Minnesota when a man at the drive thru paid for the meal of the car behind him it ended up that over 900 cars bought meals for others. One person began a ripple of kindness that impacted many people who continued that ripple. Start your ripple in your surroundings. We all have helper ability within us. Your helper self can make a difference.
I am committed to upping my helper self, to creating more joychains of good. To do my little bit of good where I am. Want to join me?
May your helper be with you💜