Does It Take a Village?

What would you do if someone left a disturbing comment on your blog?

Let me clarify: I don’t mean a troll. I don’t mean someone who attacks you, or your post. When I say disturbing I mean more like, they write about how sad they are, or depressed, or how life is just horrible…

So, you write a post, and this person makes a sad comment about their personal life…

Do you write them back?

Do you send them the link to suicide prevention hotline?

Do you go to their blog to see what they write about on their time?

Do you do nothing?

I know I’ve written about this before…the not knowing what one should do…and then I forget about the topic until someone leaves a comment that disturbs me…

And then I sit at my desk, frozen, because I don’t know what my responsibility as a human is to another human…

I got a comment and it seemed as if the writer was so sad…

and I read it over a bunch of times…

It was from someone who had never commented on one of my blogs before…

So I had no connection to the type of person this was…

I looked up their page: they tended to write a bunch of depressing, wistful things…

Was this a person reaching out for help?

I don’t know how to help someone who feels like this…I can get them a phone number, but I am not equipped to guide someone to a better place.

I responded to the comment, some sort of banal response as to looking for the bright side, or talking to someone if they need to, but it was all rather generic information. I didn’t ignore them, nor did I help them. I was suspended in some weird limbo of not knowing how much to step in to help a stranger.

That’s the thing about someone showing you emotion or feelings- it’s not always easy to ascertain what to do. If you see someone in physical distress, it’s easy to call 911- actions are easier to deal with. But how do we deal with words? How do we deal with words when the connection is tenuos…screen names and no real way of knowing how the person really is…

Are we our brother’s keeper?

Does it take a village?

In a world that has gone from real life to virtual, in a world where we speak more to people via chat and messenger, text and email, in a world where we might not ever meet our best friends in person…how do we navigate how people are feeling?

With all the people we come in virtual contact with on the day to day, how do we ascertain when someone really needs our help, and when we should be minding our own business?

Do we help a stranger based solely on his said comments on one blog post?

If someone writes a distressing comment on your blog, or writes a very sad post, what do you do?

Anything Can Happen Friday: Cable

The back story: We used to have a bulk rate cable package for our building. When the contract came up for renewal, there just weren’t enough people in the building using cable for us to get a good bulk rate anymore. Bottom line: as of last week we now pay for services that we don’t want/need, but we used to get for free.

Knowing that I didn’t want to pay extra for services we don’t want, I called up the cable company the other day. I supplied them with all the necessary info, told them I wanted to eliminate X and Y.

With me so far?

Ok- the cable guy says:

“Can you get your husband on the line because only his name is on the account.”

Meanwhile, I’m calling from the number that is listed on the account. MY NUMBER IS LISTED AS THE CONTACT NUMBER ON THE ACCOUNT.

I am able to give him all the information for the account because THE BILLS ALL GO TO MY EMAIL. I literally read him all the lines from the most recent bill- every single code and word etc.

Nope. Need to talk to the husband. Which I understand in theory, but I”M GIVING YOU ALL THE INFORMATION AND I’M CALLING FROM THE NUMBER ASSOCIATED WITH THE ACCOUNT. FOR TWENTY YEARS I AM THE PERSON WHO HAS BEEN DOING EVERYTHING WITH THE CABLE INCLUDING SETTING UP THE NEW BOXES WHEN NEEDED.

I mean really, is there some nefarious trickster out there calling the cable company and having Showtime and Starz removed from random people?

I’M TAKING STUFF OFF NOT ADDING ON.. THE BILL IS GOING TO GO DOWN…

I may or may not have been rude to the cable guy…

So I get off the phone frustrated.

I pulled up our bill online and I saw a “Chat Now” thing.

So I went on the “Chat Now” and I asked them to take off Showtime and Starz (FYI- didn’t know we had Starz) and I ask how much my new monthly bill will be.

And ever so quickly Showtime and Starz were taken off my account.

So here’s the thing: is it really security if I can bypass the system pretty easily?

Growing Pains?

Before I start my post I am going to preface it: what I am writing about today is based on a mainly hypothetical conversation that I had with two neighbors while we were doing laundry. Both of these women have 13 year old daughters and they somehow oddly thought I might have some words of wisdom regarding teenage girls and raising them. After I stopped laughing at the thought of any parent ever knowing anything, we had a discussion around this topicwhile there is an example of a situation, this was more conversational than actual

The laundry room is like the water cooler of an apartment building. We run into each other and have long conversations about pretty much everything. When I run into these particular women, the talk often turns to how did I like the schools my daughter attended (remember we have school choice here- especially after elementary) On this particular occasion, the subject was girls as they enter the teen years.

How do you know the difference between a teen who is spoiled, a kid who is acting out as part of the normal growth process, and a kid that is having a real issue?

Teenage children act out. They rebel against their parents. I know we don’t want to hear this, but a certain amount of rebellion is normal and healthy. During the teen years we know that kids are trying to find their place in the world apart from their parents. Rebelling against parents is the safest form of rebellion- they are secure enough in the love of the parents that they know they have this cushion. Doesn’t make it easy to live through, but there you go.

Now, some kids rebel way less than others. I can’t tell you why some kids are more hellish than others during this time period.

But how do we know what’s good rebellion, and what sort of rebellion causes trouble?

I have no idea.

And I told this to my neighbors. My guess if is something is self destructive, or destructive to others, you might need to sit down with the pediatrician and ask for a next step.

But do we really ever know what is normal and what is a cry for help?

My neighbor brought up a particular situation: her niece had all of a sudden become a vocal advocate against date rape and other forms of sexual aggression towards young women. She asked me, how do you know if this is a normal protest against something that has been in the news lately, or what if she, or one of her friends has been victimized? Do you ask and risk the kid shutting down? Do you watch to see if any other behaviors are off?

I shook my head: these were questions I’d often thought of myself. When I would see a girl at school I wonder if they are anorexic, or maybe taking drugs, but at what point do you say something? Is it worth stirring the pot?

While we are all supposed to watch out for one another, in practice, how do we actually do it?

As an outside we may be looking at things from a different light- sometimes being close to a situation can be blurry. Sometimes an outsider can have clarity.

When do we butt in? When do we butt out?

When “normal” can be pretty obnoxious, how do we ascertain a cry for help?

A Little Help From my Friends

You know I’m sort of a realist- pragmatic, analytic, ruled by logic.  But sometimes I wonder if the Universe does really play with my mind.

A few months ago I read a piece about how women who don’t ask for help are lacking self esteem.  Which I sort of called BS on.  But somewhere between the idea and the post, something happened.

You’ve heard about my movie friend J.  She’s a woman in her 70’s who lives in my building, and we see movies together.  That’s pretty much the context of our relationship- going to the movies, and talking about movies.  But on the 15 minute walks to and from the theater, we would share little stories of our lives, and it was obvious we had a rapport.

J is one of those women I admire.  She’s never been married, doesn’t have a significant other, and has never longed for one, nor bemoaned the fact that she is alone.  Quite the contrary- she embraces her singledom.  She has traveled the world, her only regret being that she has never been to Antarctica.  She spends her days as she pleases, and is perfectly content.  She is fiercely independent and doesn’t need anyone.  She is the last person to ever ask for help.

Then one day, after her routine check up, her Doctor saw something he didn’t like. He wanted her to come in and have a little surgery to remove a little something to have a little biopsy.  You know that after a procedure, hospitals don’t let you leave without someone- you need to ask for help.

J has family close by in New Jersey, but as asking for help is foreign to her, the thought of asking them to come into the city to help her was not an option she wanted to choose.  So she asked me.  She asked for my help.  I sort of downplayed it, not wanting to spook her into running into the woods like a deer. But of course I would help her, pick her up from the hospital. I gently asked if she wanted me to take her in the morning. She answered brusquely, of course not.  She was fine.

Then the day before the procedure: I’m pretty sure she hung out in our building lobby until I went to walk the dog.  And she gently asked, “Do you mind coming with me in the morning?  I’m a little more scared than I thought I would be. It’s early though- we need to leave at 6:15.”  Of course I said yes.

I know how hard it was for J to ask me, or anyone, for help.  She is proud of her ability to fend for herself.  But sometimes you need help.  Sometimes you can’t do everything by yourself.  Sometimes you need a friend.

I got up the next morning and took her to the hospital.  I sat with her until they took her in, and I hung out for a bit in the day surgery unit until it was time for her to go in for her procedure.  I left and came back at 330, the appointed time, and waited for her to feel better so that she could be released.

And a week went by, and I didn’t run into her.  I started to get a feeling.  My logical mind was being overtaken by intuition.  I “knew” the test results were not great.  I just felt it.  But, do I ask her?  Will she take offense to this overture and run away?  That’s the thing about proudly independent people- they can be proudly quiet and hold things to the vest.

Luckily, as we walked to see “Ocean’s 8” the other day, she just said the words.  Cancer.  Small.  They think they got it all with the biopsy sample, but they wanted to make sure.  Would I pick her up?  The procedure would be easy- ten minutes.

Of course I would pick her up.  Of course I would do anything she needed.  I was glad that she trusted me, to share this news with me.  I was glad that she wasn’t too proud to ask for help when she needed it.

So next week I will accompany my friend.  And I will marvel at friendships, whether they be people in your neighborhood, of friends far away.  I will sleep better knowing that there are people who will reach out to me in their time of need, and there are people I can reach out to.

And though I remain a practical, evidence based person- I can’t help but wonder if some greater force propelled me to read the article about needing help.  I can’t help but wonder if certain people come into your life for a reason.  I can’t help but wonder how much I am going to analyze these thoughts…