Susan Steen

“For those living in a dark cave ... sometimes all it takes is for someone to throw us a lifeline.” — Martin R. Lemieux

Thank goodness for Google Maps. There are times we wouldn’t find our way if not for that wise little voice. Often, a notification will pop up alerting the driver that there is an accident or construction ahead, offering an alternate route.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a mapping service through life? “Warning, manipulator ahead — take alternate route.” Or “Bad job choice, would you like me to show you an alternate route?” While most of us experience moments of uncertainty, for many people, when life isn’t going the way they planned, they find themselves mired in a dark cave, and as Lemieux says, sometimes they just need someone to throw them a lifeline.

I was on a flight recently, and I was already a bit anxious, since flying is a little different these days. Flying above the clouds, the sun was shining, shades of blue surrounded us with fluffy white pillows of clouds magically standing in space.

The captain’s voice jolted me out of my dreamlike state. “Folks, the flight attendants are making an early pass through the cabin so they can get buckled up for the bumps ahead.” What bumps, I wondered, could be ahead when things up here looked so beautiful.

Soon, the bumps came. The clouds of white became more ashen in color, much flatter than they had been moments before and there were less of the beautiful blue skies outside the windows. So thankful for a pilot who was able to foresee the rough patch and prepare us, I thought of the lives that could be changed if only we could know how to be the lifeline for those struggling in need.

Project Hope Exchange and Life Vest Inside are two groups/sites that have recognized the importance of that lifeline known as hope. Internet sites might not be able to take us from despair to hope with the click of a button, but there are many resources, such as these two, out there to help those of us who are in a good place help those who are having a bad day — or, sometimes, a bad life.

Remember a time when you felt hopeless — maybe you lost your job, maybe you lost someone you thought you could count on, or maybe you just felt like you had lost yourself. Looking back, what do you think might have helped you feel better? What might have helped you feel hopeful?

Maybe your hopeless feeling is here today. People aren’t getting out as much to eat and to shop, and their fears are driving your reality. Of course, so is a virus. We can’t hide from it, but we can hope our choices are the ones that will protect others and protect ourselves. Throw us a lifeline, science.

We aren’t all born into families where wiser people guide us through the rough patches, not every person is wired to know how to search for answers on his own, and, quite frankly, when a person is in a dark cave it doesn’t matter how smart or rich or “blessed” a person might appear to be.

Without a lifeline, that dark cave probably has mud that keeps their feet suctioned to the ground. This is our time to help.

It’s almost a guarantee that someone in your life is struggling and needing hope. Our schedules might seem packed, so we have to make an effort to be helpful.

  • · Send a text or a note to say “hello” or to just check in on someone you know might need some hope.
  • · Set aside an hour for lunch or a cup of coffee to just lend an ear. People need someone to listen more than they need advice most times. If you are social distancing, it can work outside or on a video chat.
  • · Share a similar experience that you’ve had (if you’ve had one) that might let them know you understand what they are feeling. Unlike giving advice, shared experience gives your words some validity. But don’t monopolize the conversation with your own experience, shutting out their opportunity to vent.
  • · Share information for resources that might help them in their current situation. No one has to have all of the answers, but having direction sure helps.

The bottom line, though, is this — when someone needs you, be there. When your child calls, be there. When your friend asks for an hour of your time, be there. Whatever is pressing at that moment, set it aside.

There are so few things that are more important than being there for another human being. You might need to bring a flashlight since it’s usually pretty dark in a cave. But that’s what we need from each other. We need to know that even if someone is stuck in a cave, we will throw a lifeline to pull them out, possibly muddying ourselves at the same time.

Whether it is with one of my children or one of my friends, I have found that helping others helps me. Offering hope to someone else might be the lifeline you didn’t even know you were needing for yourself.

Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Always, she writes from her heart in hopes of speaking to the hearts of others.

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