I spotted Betsy standing stock still in the middle of the sidewalk, not understanding why she was frozen to the spot. Did she not feel well? Was a dog nearby or something else that caught her attention?
As I drew closer, she began to move toward me. She opened her arms wide and announced, “Two days in a row!” She'd greeted me in a similar delightful way just a day earlier.
“What were you doing, writing a book?” I asked, seeing the phone in her hand and realizing she had been texting someone.
“I was sending love to someone who needed love.”
We chatted a bit before heading off in different directions, but her words stuck with me.
She had said something similar the day before as we walked together and, now it occurred to me, I had heard her say it another time or two.
I'm hearing and reading a lot about the anxiety and stress that 2020 is causing in many. I see and feel it in myself, my family, neighbors and friends. It might be easier and faster to create a list of those who are not stressed by the events of this year.
For most of us, it's instinctive to reach out to help someone we care about who appears to be in distress.
After all, each of us experiences stress differently. Things that really upset some people may upset others very little or not at all.
I can think of times in my life when the look on someone else's face was very concerning. When I asked if he or she was OK, their responses were funny because I had totally misread what I thought I saw. Some were not even aware their countenances looked worried or scared. They were just thinking hard about something – and some of those things were not the least bit stressful for them.
Then there are those times when you ask if someone is OK and they say “I’m fine” in autopilot. You know they are not, but they are not ready to talk. Follow up if you see it again. Your effort lets them know they are not alone, and that may be the reassurance they need in order to open up.
I'm also seeing and hearing about psychological first aid, or PFA. How do we learn to cope with our own stress? How do we become resilient? How do we help others cope and be resilient? Key concepts are being present, listening and not rushing in to solve someone else's problem.
PFA was introduced in the middle of the last century. It was meant to help those who experienced traumatic events – hurricanes, fires and other natural disasters as well as violence such as mass shootings and attacks on or murder of family members or in neighborhoods, especially if witnessed by children or teens. After 9/11, PFA proliferated.
The Red Cross offers classes. So does Johns Hopkins University, whose evidence-based model has many endorsements. There are others, I am sure, for those interested in delving into the topic. I have enrolled in a course through Coursera and it's free if you do not wish to earn a certificate.
Or, you can be like Betsy and share some of your own love.
Michele Murphy can be reached at email@example.com.