So we're smack-dab in the middle of the holiday season, amidst bustling Christmas shoppers, tree farms, and co-workers who bring in a hoard of sweets under the guise of being friendly when in fact they're snickering behind your back because they know that cheesecake is going on your thighs, not theirs (seriously guys, enough is enough). But as we hurry from point A to point B and zip through the weeks, sweeping aside various everyday tasks that seem menial in comparison to our ever-growing to-do list, how often do we really stop and think about the things we're missing? More specifically, the people in our lives?
Now I know that over the years this resounding message seems more like beating a dead horse than an inspirational note moving us to pick up the phone or write a letter, but stay with me on this. Tonight, in my last official class of my Master's Program, my professor shared with us a personal devastating story. Her neighbor, a war vet with PTSD who had a history of suicidal depression and alcoholism had taken his own life last week. Now my professor had gone the extra mile over the years, providing emotional support, checking in on him, sending him birthday and holiday baskets, food for Thanksgiving, whatever he needed, whatever she could give. However, last week, she wasn't well, in bed with a long-term migraine, feeling physically ill, and she took a moment for herself. It wasn't until she got out of bed one morning, head still aching, that she heard the ominous hum of an idling engine outside her house. Peeking through the kitchen curtain, she found a fire engine and four police squad cars lining her street, and her heart stopped. She knew, without having to ask, what had happened. Her mind flipped back through the past week or so, every moment that she thought to stop by and every time she said, "I'm just too busy to talk to him today." And that guilt, by my own observation, is taking it's toll on her.
First let me clarify, I do not slight this woman in the least. She has extended and over-extended herself for this individual and really had tried to save this broken soul by giving all the love and care she had. Life happens, we get busy sometimes, and unfortunately things get passed up. However, far too many times the rest of us brush people aside without having the track record this woman brought to the table. How many times have we said "tomorrow", or "maybe next week", or "I really need to call/write/email him", and never got around to it? How many times have we thought "I simply don't have the time"?
I have to own it, as my life has gotten more hectic with school, work, internship, and all the time I've invested in just going nuts, I have neglected some people: a cousin I used to speak with almost every week, my dad whom I really only speak to once a month or so, my grandparents whom I keep saying I'll take out to lunch, but have yet to get around to it, and friends that have faded into the background as my once idle and uneventful life takes wing. But it's no excuse, because everywhere we look, we see people, read articles, hear stories of sudden and unexpected loss and pass up the lessons unlearned until it happens to us. Moments that should've been are gone, hopes for memories that were never made have dissipated, and all we have is the "should have, could have, would have if only I had the time" that won't bring our loved ones back.
And, in these trying times when we can all use a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear, or just a hug, we need to take time for one another; to prevent more tragedies, to stop someone from picking up a gun and turning it on themselves, or worse yet, turning it on everyone else, to heal some wounds or at the very least, alleviate some pain. Most importantly, to let people know that they are loved, that they're on your mind, and in your heart.
So get cracking. Make your To-Call list, and hit up some people who haven't heard from you in awhile, or call up some people you may have spoken to yesterday, but this time just to say hi rather than ask for a favor. Write a letter, write an email, hell, write a text message! Despite arguments of technology making social exchanges more superficial and impersonal, let's face it, a text message says so much more than a phone that doesn't ring or a letter that never comes. And while you're at it, give a friendly smile to a stranger at the mall, start a little conversation when you're waiting in those long lines at the cashier, connect to someone new. It might just change their whole day, and you'll feel better for it.