Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Behind Closed Doors Everyone is Struggling with Something: Here Are 3 Ways to Show Compassion & Provide Comfort

3 Closed Doors

Three Closed Doors

1. In a shocking story reported in the Daily Mail, on CBS news and many other sources, a 20 year old student, Nicholas Barnes was found dead in his dorm room at the University of Chicago, a week after anyone had a record of seeing him. 

You may be wondering how it was possible that his neighbors, friends or family, in this technologically savvy century, had not been concerned by his absence. 

 In the world of instant connectivity via text, Facebook, twitter and mobile phones, how did this happen?
Why did no one suspect something was going on behind a door that had been permanently closed for a week or more?

Truly we have no idea what is going on behind closed doors.

Unless we take the trouble to find out.
2. My friend Jodie, told me the following: At a conference she had listened to a  glamorous lawyer describe her thriving career and 3 children's great successes at Yale, Princeton and MIT.

 Her first thoughts were.... 

"This woman really seems to have her life all worked out- picture perfect."

 It was only when she asked about the woman's husband that she discovered he was in a serious car accident a few years ago and is on full disability.

Our first impressions, often show us only part of the picture.
3. In a corner of the restaurant sat a family of five. Parents and 3 teenage sons. There was a synergy between them. An easy, relaxed feel to the way they ate their meal and related to each other. Every so often as one of them made a comment the other four burst into laughter. No rolling teenage eyes, no electronics on the table, no anti-social behavior. It was picture perfect. 

If I had been observing them, I might have thought how lucky they were, to have this dynamic, good health and  seemingly not a care in the world. How some people just seemed to have it all. Teens who wanted to be at a meal with their parents. Parents who seemed to be enjoying their teens.

That group was our family, last Sunday and we did have a wonderful birthday meal. However as you know if you have been reading my blog, our lives have not been picture perfect. 

 A snapshot of someone's life does not give you all the details, just a moment in time.
Within my community, I know a little about the struggles some people are dealing with -with grief, with illness, with their relationships and their jobs. With their children's challenges and their parents' declining health.  But what that also means, is that there are many more I  know nothing about.

People naturally put on brave faces to the world. They smile and ask others about their weekend, not really listening to the answers. 

They rush to work, the gym, the grocery store and they volunteer and run errands. None of this would reveal the challenges they are dealing with back home. The sadness, fear, worry or isolation they may be struggling with. The disappointment, betrayal or hurt they may be feeling. 

What can you do about this?

Here are 3 things you can do right now, to crack open the door and show you care.

1. Be Compassionate and Kind as you interact with others on your daily travels:You really do not know what they are dealing with behind closed doors. Your eye-contact, smile, attention, compliment or hug for just a few minutes, may turn their day around.

In the grocery store, a petite,  elderly lady asked for my help in reaching a jar of honey from the back of the top shelf. As I stood on tip toes trying to grasp at the jar, she told me her husband had died recently and he was the one who used to reach groceries on the high shelves for her.   I acknowledged that it must be hard to shop without him, placed the jar in her gnarled hands and smiled. 

She commented, 

"Thank you for your kindness." And then she added ......"You  know your smile reaches all the way to your eyes. Beautiful!" 

 She made my day.... and I thought I was helping her!

2. Notice Someone's Absence. If someone you know well, seems to have been absent from your life, take time to check up on them.

A friend who lives in the UK observed that I had not been on Facebook for a while and checked up on me with an email. I greatly appreciated her checking in. It was a week in which Jacob's stomach migraine had been particularly gruesome. I had not had time to blog, tweet, email or even text. Knowing she had noticed my absence, was so heart warming and comforting. 

3. Respond Fully To a Request For Help. If someone in a challenging situation reaches out to you, a little of your time can make a huge difference to their well-being. If they need to find information you can be their research assistant. If they need a ride somewhere, help them find one if you can't do it. 

 A twitter friend's long loved pet was dying. She asked me what she should read and how she could find comfort. I made some suggestions and tweeted with her through the crisis. None of it took much time, but I hope it helped her.

During our family's many trials, we have been lucky to have been the recipients of all 3 suggestions above.

 Even when we kept some of our difficulties behind closed doors,  our perceptive friends reached out and checked in on us. Their actions didn't solve the problems, but their ability  to recognize something was amiss and their willingness to walk by our side gave us strength and  comfort. And ultimately the opportunity to be that family who were having lunch together without a care in the world. (At least for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon.)

Can you recall a time when you noticed something was wrong and reached out? Tell me what you did and how it helped. Have you been a recipient of someone's perceptive thinking? How did it feel? Please remember to share the post if it resonated with you.

Sending love to you all

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Pondering On The Porch

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  1. I find it astonishing that there is an adult out there so short that they have to ask you to reach something for them.... [Sorry, I just couldn't resist. But she was right about your smile.]

  2. Honestly Bill, I thought the same thing and I really did have to climb the shelves! I've got quite skilled at it now!!!! thanks for commenting.

  3. Another brilliant blog post Gilly xx

    1. Thank you Liz and thank you for reposting it.

  4. Very thought provoking, as usual Gilly. I just called someone who has been on mind for weeks, but I hadn't been in touch! Thank you and G-d bless. Shabbat Shalom

    1. Thanks Janice. I'm sure your friend was glad to hear from you. Gillyxx

  5. Great post, Gilly! This happened to me on Wednesday....I try to never put my heart on my sleeve, yet I was feeling very upset, and had just gotten to work when a friend texted me just two words...'you ok?' That she would know to reach out at that moment is beyond me.

    1. Thanks Marie. It's important to know that a two word text can make a big difference. It doesn't need to be along call or email. It's the act of making contact and caring that is important. I'm sorry you had a rough day. Sending you a big hug. Gilly

  6. I love reading your blogs!! They are so great and always hit close to home. You are such an incredible person and are so good at reaching out to all of us. Thank you!!!xoxo

  7. Thank YOU Wendi for taking the time to comment. I'm glad they resonate with you and hope they bring you comfort.

  8. I was asked by a neighbor on disability who was executor of her dad's small estate to help her handle the lawyer who was handling this and handle her family. It became quite involved and I became the guardian of her special needs fund until she passed away. I struggled with feeling I was pulled into more than I wanted to do and at the same time realizing that life was offering me a chance to really be compassionate and kind. It was a chance to live my values. Jill

    1. What great kindness, generosity and compassion you showed Jill. I often find that in helping others in need, we gain so much in the process, often in ways we could never have imagined. Thank you for telling this story. I'm sure you brought your neighbor great comfort.

  9. This was a great doesn't matter how 'deeply' I care....if I don't share it with in the world do I expect them to know! Thank you...appreciate your post! We found a stranded baby quail in our front yard last night. I placed it under a heat lamp, the little one peeped all night for his family...The 95 y/o widow who runs a wildlife rehabilitation out of her home thanked me for caring enough to drive an hour round trip to bring the quail in...I'm changed by her compassion and caring yet she thanked me.