Today is R U OK? Day but there are many days I wish I had asked ‘are you OK?’ or taken the time to be there for someone. But the fact of the matter is that so often in our busy lives we put things off. We tell ourselves we’ll do it tomorrow or we’ll do it next week and feel relieved when it’s all under the rug.
But what happens when the rug moves and reveals all the little things you’d left behind? When I think of this day on the calendar, I think about the time I should have asked someone if they were OK. I remind myself I was too young to make that choice but the fact of the matter is that even as I’ve aged, I know that myself and many others are still as reluctant to take those steps, saying to ourselves that the person wouldn’t give you the honest truth anyway.
When I was growing up, I lived in a little cul de sac with a number of other kids. We’d all play together on the street til it got dark. We did that for years. One day I had to move away with my family and I’d often think of those kids and how they were. One day I saw one of the little girls who was my neighbour three doors down. She was now about 16 and working at the local ice cream store. I was 19 at that stage and with my much older boyfriend and his friends. She smiled and I pretended I didn’t know her, I guess I wanted to seem cool. She looked rejected and sad. As she handed me my money, I noticed cuts on her arm. Shocked, I quickly took my money and rushed out. I told my boyfriend and he just laughed, saying it wasn’t my problem.
Fast forward about a year and I received a phone call from my other neighbour. We still caught up and talked every now and then but it was unusual for her to call. She said, “Do you remember Nina? …She killed herself”. I felt sick. I didn’t know how to react. I asked when the funeral was and she said it had already happened. I was racked with guilt, thinking if only that day I had asked how she was and made her feel like she wasn’t alone, she might not have done what she had. She was living with her grandparents and had been all her life, when they found her. I can’t imagine how they felt, just so distraught as their own grandchild had done this and what they could have done. Even to this day I think about her grandparents and how important she was to them. She knew that but we obviously crying out to anyone through her scars.
So today, that is what I think of and how vital those personal questions are, how crucial that smile is to a stranger, and what a hug can achieve. We need to be more kind to everyone, because we’re all in this together. Don’t force an interaction today, but don’t let one slip by either.
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