About a month ago, driving home from dinner just mindlessly sitting at a stoplight, we witnessed two people get hit by a car. In the clichéd blink of an eye, everything seemed to stop for just one second, and then the sound of screams and slamming brakes began to register within the confines of our car. We did all the things you do in those moments—throw on the hazards, call 911, and sit there, feeling utterly helpless as the scene unfolded in the intersection.
I’ve tried to write about that endless second for a solid month, and I haven’t been able to find the right words for how it felt to be on the watching end. To consider the effects it had on everyone, from pedestrian to driver, directly involved. To describe the way I couldn’t stop shaking for hours or what it was like to replay that scene over and over again with each involuntary blink. Every time I sat down in front of my computer screen, words failed me. And for me, that’s when I know I have to take a step back and breathe for a little longer than usual.
Everywhere I turn, it seems like the world has collectively lost its rational mind. Talk of war, unmasked hatred, and private pains make it feel as though we are all experiencing a season filled with confusion and loss. On the outside, it seems as though we—humanity—have lost the ability to recognize all the beautiful things that connect us: our uncompromising ability to love, our desperate need to feel laughter that reaches deep down into the depths of our bellies, our insatiable thirst for a place and a people to which we belong.
Yet here, in my own life, I am constantly reminded of those precious connections, of the things that make us human, each of us sharing space on this big rotating ball of earth and air.
I spent most of yesterday celebrating a close friend’s birthday, and as we drove to the beach, I was reminded that the bonds that hold us all together are built on so much more than just a mutual existence. It may be true that we all breathe the same air, rely on the same nourishment, and bleed the same color; however, what connects us is so much deeper and bigger than this. What keeps us human is the shared experience of living—even when that means riding out the biggest hurts and needing a reminder that we are never truly alone.
I see it in the strength radiating from the people I know and love. Those who stand up and take care of everyone around them even when it feels like all that they know has crumbled and that the remains are as fleeting as the summers of our childhoods. Their personal struggles are often hidden behind a forced smile or cloaked in the words of support I watch them share with the next person—and then the next—the person who needs that reminder that someone is listening; that they are valuable.
This weekend has been filled with texts and calls, messages of people I know and love who are hurting or struggling through pretty big life stuff. And with every ding of my phone, I can’t help but feel like I did watching that accident that early evening a short month ago—a little bit useless, a lot helpless.
In the moments after the accident, I couldn’t do much more than make a phone call to ensure that the right people showed up to give the support and attention those involved needed. I watched as strangers rushed to each other’s side, and I heard kindness resonate in the voice on the other end of the phone. The one who reassured me that help was, in fact, on the way.
I can’t help but think that maybe that’s what we all need to be doing these days. Stepping away from the influx of news and online debates. Focusing on lending a hand or an ear or a shoulder to those we know, maybe even those we don’t, who need it. Reaching out. Making real connections between us. The kind that we all need every now and then. Seeing the people around us for who they are and not what a pundit or a politician or our own ignorance tells us they should be.
While I write this, there are an awful lot of people in my home state and in my life who are hurting right now. And if you are like me, you often find yourself feeling worthless when it comes to easing those burdens or changing those realities. But if you find yourself wanting to, if you feel the ache for another deep within your chest, then I am convinced that it is the biggest step we can all take toward making this crazy planet feel a little more inviting for us all.
To all those people that I love and to those I may not really know who happen to read this, I hope that the world finds a way to give you a small slice of comfort on the days when you feel broken at your very core. I hope that the music always finds its way to you, and that the arms you don’t ask for are there to catch you.
And to those of us sitting on the sidelines, feeling unequipped to offer any assistance in the shadows of so much misunderstanding and pain, I hope you find the strength to support, to give, and to understand—even when you feel like you don’t or you can’t or you shouldn’t.
As for humanity, my only wish is that we start building bridges instead of burning them to fill in the gaps that have become gulfs between us. That we all find a little more compassion, a little more empathy, and a lot more love in our hearts.
Because when I don’t know what else to do, that’s all I’ve got to give, and I try to give it away as much and as often as I can with the hopes that you feel it when you need it most.