By Terry Alburger
Life Engagement Coordinator, Brittany Pointe Estates
Did you ever see someone familiar walking toward you in a hallway or store and think, “Oh, man, can I avoid talking to them? Did they see me?” A quick turn to the left or the right might save you from having to deal with this person at all. Perhaps this person is chatty and you don’t want to spend the time listening, or perhaps it is someone that you do not particularly like or maybe you are in a hurry. Any of these is a valid reason for wanting to avoid them.
But did you ever think of the other side of the coin? Chances are, if you feel this way about that person, others do as well. What does that mean about their life? It is possible, and even likely, that this person doesn’t have many friends. Maybe the reason they keep you for so long is that they really have no one else with whom they can talk. It could very well be that your chance encounter today will be their only contact with another person for the day. The week. The month. What then?
Loneliness is a real problem, as is depression. If a five-minute conversation with someone can renew their hope for a better day, then is it really too much to ask? It is been my policy to make time for anyone who wants to talk. It started out being part of my job, but slowly I have adopted it in my life even outside the work environment.
This philosophy is not limited to people I know. I try to greet people with a smile and a friendly “hello, how’re you?” wherever I go. Many times people respond in kind, but once in a while, someone answers with an honest “not too good” and there many times a conversation ensues.
I admit to being an eternal optimist, maybe to a fault. And I know this policy seems Pollyanna-like but I honestly believe in it wholeheartedly. I think we have all been on that other side of the coin in our lifetime. Think about it — did you have someone to talk to, to help you sort it out or to just listen? I most definitely have. In fact, one of the most profound instances for me came when my husband was gravely ill and I was sitting in an ICU, awaiting news. A complete stranger came in, held my hand, even prayed with me. This kindness has stayed with me and helped me pattern my philosophy to help others.
One of the most amazing experiences I have ever had working in a retirement community happened one day as I was running out to a meeting. A resident stopped me and asked, “Do you have two minutes?” The truth is, I did not. I was late. But something told me to listen. “Sure,” I said. He had a physical concern, which he shared and I immediately recognized as something potentially life-threatening. He was going to wait and see if it went away. I made him promise me he would call his doctor that day. He did and was immediately admitted to the hospital with blood clots. It took a while, but he came back good as new. I took the two minutes that I didn’t have.
If you think about it, a few minutes of time is just a drop in your chronological bucket. You could be the answer to someone’s prayers or the person who shows kindness and even hope. You could even save a life.
It’s a drop. And it’s your drop to give.