It isn’t like you got up this morning, or any other morning, with the alarm clock buzzing inside your head. Kicking it off your nightstand, you stagger to your feet. Forcing your eyelids open, you look into the mirror.
Looking back at you stands a rumpled post-a-note begging you to add today’s goals or intentions.
OK fine, but they did not include:
The almost humorous bank robbery with a bicycle for a get-a-way car. Nearly being run over by a car careening through your office windows. Giving CPR to a co-worker outside the break room. Hearing the news the vice president’s secretary didn’t make it.
It probably didn’t include anything like what you experienced. Yet it happened. You were there. You didn’t choose it but now you must deal with it.
Acknowledge what happened. Even that it did happen.
Give yourself a chance to grieve and to get the support you need. This could be a trip to the gym; a new pair of shoes; a case of tissue paper; a call to a friend; a mini-therapy session with your dog . . .
Breath.Breath in through your nose. Breath out through your mouth. Repeat until things feel calmer.
Give yourself permission to be who you are in this moment.
Until next time . . . Story Impact: Changing Stories – Changing lives.
Life has them. The unexpected, shocking, even horrifying moments. Moments where you wonder if your bones can handle the pressure. When tears sear your skin. When breath wrings out your lungs.
The unexpected happens. People rob people. Storms surge. Wars erupt. People die. Words fall empty. Life continues.
“I wasn’t there . . . This type of thing never happens to me . . . I feel guilty, it should have been me . . . I can’t relate . . .”
What do I say? I know they hurt. I hurt.
You might start by saying: I am sorry this (say the name the event) happened. I am sorry that (say the name of the person) died. I am so sorry that you were robbed. I am sorry that your house got destroyed . . .
Then listen. Listen without words. Skip the inside the head, trying to figure out what you’re going to say. Just listen. It works. When you feel confident in listening, afterward, it’s amazing how the words just show up. Trust. You’ll know what to say.
If you want to help, do so. Not everyone is going to want assistance or what you have to offer. It’s ok.
If they do what the help. It’s ok.
Be respectively directive.
“I am going to the store tomorrow, what would you like me to get for you?”
“I am going to our meeting on Thursday, would you like me to pick you up at three o’clock?”
“I just made an extra big batch of soup, would it be OK to bring some over after six o’clock tonight?”
Just offering to help and your telephone number might be too much for a person in crisis to fully process. Making what you are able to do for them and what might be helpful to this individual makes it easier for them to accept or decline your offer.
If appropriate, give a hug. Always a nice way to let another person know that you care, especially when words can’t say it all.
Until next time . . . Story Impact: Changing stories – Transforming lives.
While this post neither addresses, nor endorses, the intricacies of the prison system, it is the focal point for this post.
The news of our daily lives become the centerpiece of our daily conversations. High ranking favorites often include relationship sagas, financial epics, home improvement conquests, entertainment analogs, health chronicles and personal heroics. Like any of us, we talk and write about the adventures, events and characters filling our lives. Having friends in jail has brought forward a new sense of awareness. An awareness about the value and the impact of simple images; often ones taken for granted. Those images frequently marking the events and the familiar backdrop of our daily lives; such as, trees, roads, ducks, hail, clouds, variety in architectural structures . . . the constantly lost to find salt and pepper shakers . . . the various colors and shapes of personal care products . . . the variety pack of clothing styles and colors . . . The very things strikingly absent in the lives of incarcerated inmates; caged inside metal doors.
Writing to a loved one, a child at camp or a get well card seems easy, often effortless. Yet writing to someone behind prison walls somehow feels different, even daunting. Really, what do you say? How is day going? What’s been happening in your life since we last saw each other? Do you share your latest outdoor outing, vacation plans or updates on the mysterious soap slugging vampire rampaging your bathroom? Knowing too, people are living where no matter where they are.
Postcards addressed to me were the best. Magical. Personal. A perfect way to feel grown up with having to read through the drudgery of letters without pictures. Postcards embraced the magic and wonderment of faraway places.
Working as a Social Worker behind prison walls, I heard the stories about how inmates felt abandoned and forgotten. People I knew found themselves behind prison bars.
Remembering the magic of brightly colored notes, I hit local truck stops. I asked truck driving friends to do the same. Soon postcards from across the country arrived in droves.
Armed with my favorite pen, I filled the backs with short stories. A few more with accolades of my days’ events.
Weeks later envelopes of faded white paper filled graphite encrypted messages arrive. Messages about the story behind the postcards. How they now decorated stark, prison walls. Later becoming a gathering point for inmates to connect and to share their stories about the stories of postcards.
I great reminder to me about the power of story and the powerful impact of a single story.
Until Next Time . . . Change stories – Changing lives.