It’s been almost two months since I moved to New York City. The concrete jungle is as vibrant as ever and does not disappoint with it’s super animated energy that literally never rests. The sidewalks are alive with vivacity and if the city takes a second to pause briefly, you can be assured that the next second will reclaim the chaos with lightning speed. The constant commotion is as reassuring as it is unnerving and the pulsing heartbeat of colour and creativity is a reminder of a life force that does not know how to stop.
I’ve started to realise how quickly I’m becoming accustomed to living in what feels like a cross between a reality show and One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. I kid you not. The sparkly, glittery merry go round is a charming ride indeed. But a lonely one for some.
A few weeks ago I was sitting in a cafe going through some shots I’d taken that day. A woman sat opposite me with a laptop in front of her. She was on her cell phone and it was evident she was having a difficult conversation. It was a business call and as she spoke she was simultaneously going through some data on her screen, seeming overwhelmed. Her voice cracked more than once and she was struggling to keep her composure. I kept looking across at her, thinking that I’d smile if I caught her eye. I wanted to offer some semblance of support without being intrusive.
Our eyes didn’t meet and my smile never materialised. I saw tears fall silently down her face. I went through it in my head and decided she must know I’d heard the tremor in her voice, seen the tears slowly journey down her cheeks. She knew I knew. Didn’t she? I deduced this without asking her, telling myself that even though she was in a public place she needed a private moment.
I could have reached out. But I didn’t. And I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
Maybe we need to stop looking and start asking. One of my living inspirations Jennifer Pastiloff has an ongoing project that she calls “What Made You Happy Today?” She stops random passers by that she meets whilst out and about and she asks them exactly that: ‘What made you happy today?’ I love the concept of this. The people she asks suddenly stop and really think. It creates awareness. For both them and the people Jen shares her findings with. It promotes caring. Somebody cares what made them happy. And why. Maybe we can all learn from this simple but wonderful line of thought. Maybe we can stop and ask next time we see someone that seems like they might be struggling.
“Are you ok?”
Three little words.
We can make a difference by showing we care. By taking out the headphones, putting away the smartphone and making the time to notice what is really happening in the places we live in. By not automatically assuming that our concern will be unwelcome. Or rebuked.
A brink is defined as a critical place beyond which success or catastrophe occurs. It’s a precarious point that we can pivot on for some considerable time. The crucial thing about being on the brink is that it’s not always immediately obvious to anyone else that we are there. ‘Normality’, or a version of it, can prevail to the watching world. Yet I can almost guarantee that somebody you sat next to today on your journey to work has been on the brink. Or they know someone that has. Maybe it’s the cashier that rang up your lunch order. Or the barista that served your latte. Maybe it’s your best friend. Your sister. Your father. Maybe it’s you.
Don’t be afraid to reach out. To make a difference. Don’t underestimate the importance of communication in communities. Big or small. It matters. We all matter. Start today. And share with us what you did so somebody else is inspired by you. So that they too want to offer a slice of compassion. Pay it forward and see if you don’t feel good about it.
The crying woman in the cafe needs to know she’s not alone. So does the solitary figure with his head hanging low that’s walking beside you. Or the child sitting apart from the rest. Maybe they need a moment to themselves. But what if they don’t? What real harm can come from asking those three words? Just softly enquiring. Gently caring. Three words. They just might be the ones that build a bridge to the brink of someone’s dark place.
Go ahead. Shine a light.
Skylar Liberty Rose is a big believer in the healing power of creativity and the freedom found in living your truth. She is a writer, street photographer and yoga teacher with an emphasis on manifesting dreams through action and visualisation. Skylar is an advocate of stripping away layers of conditioning and instead discovering the person you are truly meant to be. She is inspired by souls with spirit and courageous hearts. Skylar grew up in London, and now lives with her husband in New York City. You can follow her on Twitter, FB, and her blog.
Image courtesy of Keoki Seu.