“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
The events in Connecticut are ringing all kinds of bells for me. I recognize in my life journey that there was a time when I touched the edges of what might have been a similar circumstance.
I can relate to that single mother, dealing with a child who had issues she was probably not personally equipped to handle, a child who eventually became physically larger than she was, yet whom she probably felt she could still control. I can relate to her starting to keep secrets, putting on a brave front, making it seem that everything was okay and that she was handling it. I can relate to her possible exhaustion and her perpetual hope that things would turn out okay. And I can relate to her possible misreading of the signs that in retrospect any of the rest of us, less stressed and exhausted, less isolated and on edge, might have known were red flags.
We are many of us so close to the edge, juggling family or career or money situations that threaten to overwhelm us. Yet we assume we should go it alone. Our society values self-sufficiency to the point of self-destruction. There are times when we should ask for help, yet we don’t, thinking it’s better to muscle it through ourselves and that we’ll appear weak if we can’t.
I’ve been there. I had to be at the point of total despair and facing a life-threatening circumstance before I took what I can look back on and clearly see was the common sense answer—to get the person to the emergency room. Until that point, I thought it was my job, even my responsibility, to find the answers myself. And until that point, I was failing miserably but didn’t know it. Once I was connected with those who had the training and the experience to guide me, we found a solution. It wasn’t that those who helped me knew everything or had instant answers. It was that I was no longer alone. I had people to bounce ideas off of, I had resources that could explain to me what was going on. And that made all the difference.
It is my hope that our society will become increasingly alive to when we should reach out to each other. That we can begin to care for each other even at the risk of offending someone’s pride or disturbing our own comfort zone. When we see someone struggling, let’s ask if we can help. This could make all the difference.