This post has been kicking around in my mind for quite some time. As a runner you see people struggling during races, especially long ones, sometimes (especially if you are a slow runner like myself), you are the one struggling. Runners are also a notoriously helpful bunch, when I'm hurting I often have people tap my shoulder and ask "you okay?" as they run up. I generally say yes. I'm mostly always in some pain or another, my injuries have been piling up for years and the number of places I hurt from arthritis keeps growing. I run in pain a lot, so I don't often need help, but it is nice to know that if I did, the other runners have my back.
Lately though, I've seen some things, and not just at races, that have me concerned. More then what I'm seeing, is the reaction I sometimes get when I express how baffled I am. What worries me is how many people don't stop, who run by or watch as someone else struggles, and I wonder, when did it become socially okay to just not help a person who needs it?
I'll give a few examples:
1. At a race recently a lot of people struggled. It was hot, it was ridiculously hilly and it was quite a ways between water stops. As I usually do I was jogging along towards the back of the pack. A few people passed me, I chatted with them as we went, wishing them a good race as they pulled ahead. As I came around a turn at about mile 3 (all uphill so far) one of the girls I had talked to was laying on the side of the trail, hanging onto a rock. She was shaking and was about to puke. So I stopped and asked her if she was okay. She was overheating so I emptied my water bag onto her and let her drink my water. I held onto her arm as she threw up. Once she got up I kept her ahead of me until we got to the aid station where she stopped for help. During the 20 minutes I spent with this girl a lot of people passed us. A few asked if she was okay, but most just stepped around us and kept running. Before I got to her I watched several people run right by, didn't even look to see what was going on. When did that become okay?
2. This past weekend I was camping on a lake and there were some boaters out. The water wasn't rough or anything, but still a boat capsized off shore right out from my camp. My dad spotted it and went to go let the camp workers know. In the mean time I grabbed my kayak and a tow rope and paddled out to see if they needed help. At a bare minimum I could at least get the boaters back to shore. There were other kayakers out there and I thought that they were also coming out to help, but as I came up on the boat (and the dad and two teenage kids) one kayaker said "Well, there's not much we can do for you." but the thing is, there is almost always something you can do. I told them I had a tow rope and could try to help or I could paddle them in. So they tied me to their boat and I paddled while they kicked/swam beside the boat and the other kayakers watched. It was slow going but we did move towards shore. Eventually another paddler took a rope too and between the 5 of us we got them to where the boaters could touch and walk their boat into shore. It was an easy thing to do, to help out where I could, I didn't even really think about as I paddled out. It was also probably easy for others to just say "there's not much we can do."? When did sitting back and watching other struggle become okay?
What really got me thinking was a random post by an actor I like. I've recently been sucked into the TV show Supernatural. I get sucked into shows really easily, so thanks to the miracle of Netflix I've been watching several episodes of the show a day for about 2 weeks now. As is my usual habit, I then looked into the actors and happened across some posts from actor Jared Padalecki, who has been raising money for To Write Love on Her Arms through his #AlwaysKeepFighting campaign. For those who don't know To Write Love on Her Arms works to bring hope to those struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. After reading his story and reflecting on my own bouts with anxiety attacks as well as the relatively recent loss of my cousin to suicide I began to think about how it's not just those obvious moments where we see someone struggling that we need to help, but the ones that are more subtle, that are sometimes hidden. How do you help if you don't see the struggle? I think Padalecki's post of the picture above about covers it. Be kind. Always. You never know when that kindness will be the thing that turns it around for someone.
If I'm being honest, I'm not always a nice person, I tend towards the sarcastic and I often expect people to just suck it up and get on with life, even while knowing that sometimes, that's just not a possibility. Having had anxiety attacks for the better part of my life I know that sometimes your mind just can't control itself, even when you know you should be able to. In fact, my attacks kept me from doing something I love (riding horses) for almost 7 years. It took someone who was willing to just be there as I struggled and give me tips to get through it to finally get over my fear. I not only had to learn to trust my horse (who is a champ), but trust other people to help get me through it. It was a guy named Tommy who had previously owned my horse, who helped the most. Just knowing he was there, that he trusted the horse, and that I could trust him got me back into something that I loved. Without that person to just be helpful, I don't know that I would have ever ridden again, and that would have been a shame. He didn't have to help, but he did. I still get anxiety attacks from time to time, but now I know I can get through it and come out the other side okay.
So for me, I'm going to work on being more kind. To keep in the back of my head that it isn't just reaching out a hand to someone who has fallen, but to be a person that people know will be there when the struggle is inside as well. I have a 6 year old and I work with middle school kids most of the year and I want for them to be the people who will stop to help and not the kind who will run by, and for that I need to be that person every day as well.
To end this rambling post I'll just say, life is an adventure, but we need each other to get through it. So be kind, help each other out, and keep moving forward.