In a crisis, people are typically attentive right at the onset but then quickly revert to their private universes, often forgetting any additional kindnesses might be helpful or truly needed.
I typically witness a flood of concerned comments on Facebook pages when tragedy strikes, but in the dizzying world of social media, it’s easy to become yesterday’s news quickly. There’s not much personal follow-up unless the person in crisis brings attention back to it. The result is people in distress for the long haul can be largely ignored. This is true no matter how you transmit sad or despairing news, whether to small private groups or in public declarations.
I’ve come to realize when you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind.
I’m guilty of staying self-absorbed and focused on my daily doings although I make a concerted effort to be compassionate, thoughtful and caring.
Lately, I’m trying to up my game a notch as one of my favorite clients helped challenge my thinking. My client is a manufacturer with offices and plants spread across the country. The company is forward thinking, employee focused and innovative when it comes to its corporate culture. Its latest internal “campaign” is about caring. Using the catchphrase, “Dare to Care,” leadership challenged employees to find ways to include caring in the workplace by noticing coworkers in distress and responding appropriately. The workforce has answered enthusiastically and the result is an increased positive environment and morale boost.
We could all benefit from doing this very thing. Not just caring as lip service, but genuinely caring for our fellow man.
Notice what’s happening in your home, neighborhood, town, workplace, extended family and among your friends. Ask yourself what you can do to ease the suffering of another, applaud a success or demonstrate someone matters. It might be as effortless as sending an email or making a call, providing a meal, or lending an ear for listening.
How can we foster a more caring attitude and action towards others? I’ve got a few ideas. We can place reminders in our planners or calendars to check in once a week or month with someone who is grieving, injured or struggling. We can buy a stack of greeting cards for birthdays, anniversaries and all manner of stress-related, get-well or just hey-how-you-doing scenarios and write personal messages as appropriate and mail them. We can drop off flowers, gift cards or a meal to someone who could use a pick me up, fill a need or show we care. We can spearhead meal trains and Go Fund Me campaigns for those in dire situations. For procrastinators or those who do nothing because they feel “like a bother” to someone whose chips are down, they can solicit a buddy and join forces to take compassionate actions.
Part of caring is making time for others, and it’s a dividend that pays you in return. When someone asks you to lunch, to take a walk or have a chat, don’t blow them off. They might be hurting and need a friend or perhaps are craving some fellowship and choosing you. Make it happen when possible.
It’s easy to forget about others when we have our own lives to contend with. This is partly human nature and social conditioning, but our lives are often overly busy aside from the true necessities. The top excuse I hear for why people can’t get together, volunteer or name-your-thing-here is lack of time. A gentle reminder is we spend our time how we choose, whether we own that idea or not. Are we spending it how we genuinely need and want? Ask yourself if your constant busyness is born out of genuine necessity. Monitor just how many minutes you spend scrolling through social media feeds or going down rabbit holes on the Internet. Challenge yourself to view your schedule objectively and take stock of what’s working, and what you’d like to change. See if you can’t adjust some of that precious time towards a human interaction that shows you care.
Taking a page out of my client’s playbook, dare to care. Be intentional about the practice. Live your life consciously and with a giving heart. The world — and you — will be better for it.
This column appeared in The Journal on Sunday, May 14, 2017.