"You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I’d like to do my part in de-stigmatizing mental illness by sharing a simple way we can create connection with those we know who are struggling. Sometimes we don’t know how to reach out, or make it known that we are available to support our loved ones no matter what. Communicating these things face-to-face can feel awkward or uncomfortable, because sometimes we just simply don’t know how. Instead of letting them go unsaid, I propose we use texting to share our feelings with our loved ones. Simple texts can, at the least, create connection where it’s needed the most, and in the most intense instances, save a life.
We have all seen it; a family of four sitting at a table in a restaurant, but instead of the Norman Rockwell scene we hope for, mom, dad, sister and brother are on their phones. They are physically together, yet emotionally separate. They are in proximity of one another, while at the same time being disconnected.
Each is slightly bent over, eyes focused intently on the small screen they hold with reverence in their hands. They peer into the tiny monitor the same way we all do when we check our numbers on the lottery ticket we grasp, hoping beyond hope the digits on our slip of colored paper will match the magic ones.
As we look over in their direction, we can’t help but to judge. We can’t help but to feel the pain of separation during what should be a time of bonding and unity. There is a conflict in our midst, right before our eyes. We too slump a bit, and our righteousness gives way to a sadness. This since we can relate for the fact that we too at one time or another have done exactly the same thing.
My mother, Suzanne, had a saying, one I heard most everyday of my life; “moderation is the key.” This is the same wisdom as is the one that reminds us that even too much sunshine can be harmful. But we don’t throw the sun out with the bathwater. We regulate our time in the sun and we apply sunscreen when heading out for the day.
In other words, it’s not the sun that’s the problem. The sun is doing what it is supposed to do. It’s up to us to recognize when we’ve had enough, we need to find a place to rest under a shade tree, ideally the kind that stands tall with a hoop skirt type of green canopy.
I think the same holds true for texting. Texting is not the problem. Sending messages by way of our phone to let someone know where we are, what’s needed at the grocery store, what’s on our mind, and at best, what they mean to us, is never a bad thing. Unless of course, if this is the only way we communicate, and we lose sight of my mother’s wisdom.
Part of the issue is very few of us, if any, have ever attended a class called, Emotions 101. I missed seeing the posting in the continuing education catalog that announced the date for a class that would show me how to express my feelings. As a result, I often stumble about, sometimes hitting the mark, while at other times being way off target.
Because of my novice status, I find the use of technology to express myself a great way to learn, to practice, and hone what someday I hope can be extraordinary skills of expression. Who knows, I might even graduate to the point where I use my phone less and less and move on to face to face.
In the meantime, I say, let’s text, a lot, often and much. Let’s use texting as a means of positive expression, of a vehicle through which we can remind each other of how much we care, of our willingness to lend support, of our availability to walk together as we navigate life’s difficult journeys.
Let’s send timely, specific and authentic texts to bring about delight, to reinforce possibility, to express love and create hope into the lives of those we know well, and those with whom we are just now creating relations.
Let’s surprise others with random texts of kindness, with out of the blue texts of appreciation and OMG emojis of joy.
At the same time, I’d challenge us to balance out the use of texts with times of sitting down and writing out a handwritten note. How about we include times of belly-to-belly sharing between the times we use both of our thumbs to type out a message.
We know what happens when we drop our phone in the water; it gets ruined and stops working. If we throw away our phones, will be without something that in the present time is useful and important. We need our phones. They add important light to our days and the conscious use of them can change and even save lives.
Yes, at times we need to lay our phone down, look up at the person in front of us, and speak from the heart. And, at other times, it’s important to pick up the phone, maybe at the time the thought of a person crosses our minds. In that moment, let’s draft our heartfelt feelings in a text, and then press, send.
We are all seeking connection.
We are all wanting to move from the frigid place of isolation and invisibility into the cozy, sit by the fire with a mug of cocoa warmth of belonging and inclusion.
Texting, communication by way of technology, has the power to create life sustaining connection, which is the real reason we use the phone in the first place.
Do me a favor, “text me, please!”