This past Sunday I participated in a triathlon. It was a local race that I had been looking forward to competing in.
It’s a fun, albeit, nervous time, getting ready for a triathlon to begin.
Arriving at races and getting your gear set up is often a social time; a time of saying “hello” to old friends and getting caught up with what everyone’s been up to and a time for making new friends.
It’s also a time when I am mentally preparing for the race ahead. Putting on my “game face”.
Triathlon is a passion for me and something I do, in all honesty,to help make me a better wife, mother, therapist, friend, family member. It’s “me” time.
So there I was, setting up my spot in transition. When I heard someone crying hysterically. It was a woman about 15 feet away from me. She looked to be in her 20’s.
This young woman was beside herself. Just a mess. It was pretty obvious to all of us standing around her that she was getting some kind of startling and horrible news.
She was talking on her cell phone and kept saying, “No, No, No……Are you sure it’s him?”
I stopped what I was doing and kind of just watched the scenario play itself out for a moment. The young woman was wearing a t-shirt and sweats. I realized she wasn’t racing but was probably there to support someone else. The friend was a female who looked to be the one racing as she had on race attire.
The friend’s eyes were wide,asking questions, as she would intermittently hug the younger woman.
And here’s what I noticed about this whole scene. There were a bunch of people, men and women, including myself, in transition. Getting set up. Checking last-minute details. We were all lookers-on to the scene beside us; watching the drama unfold.
And not one person stepped up to ask the woman and her friend what was wrong. No one. Myself included. I just kinda watched and eavesdropped on the conversation. I was curious.
And then it hit me. I remembered all those times I’ve read articles online about a guy falling on the train tracks and no one stopping to help him. Because they have to get to work. Or the homeless person getting beat up by another person and people seeing but doing nothing because it’s icky and uncomfortable and “I have to get to an appointment.” Or watching a couple fighting in a cafe and the guy shoving the girl and not doing anything because it’s “none of my business”.
It has always stirred up feelings of anger and frustration in me when I would read about these things happening and no one doing anything to help. And I’ve always said, “That wouldn’t be me! I would totally help!”
And then I realized…..”This IS that scene, Anna. You’re IN IT right now…..What are you going to do?”
So here’s what I thought:
If I go over and ask the two women if there was anything I could do to help, then my race might be over before it’s even started. A race I’ve been training hard for. A race where I was hoping to place in my age group.
They might not even want to talk to me.
But they might talk to me.
And they might want me to drive someone somewhere, or make phone calls, or something. I didn’t know.
So I knew I was taking a risk. That I might be derailing my triathlon goals on this morning.
And I just said “Screw it.” I couldn’t sit back and watch these two women crying hysterically and walk away. I just couldn’t.
I went over to them and asked if there was anything I could do. “Could I help? Did they need anything?” They couldn’t even speak.
They both just hugged me. Tight. Like holding on for dear life.
They had just found out that the young woman’s boyfriend had been found dead. He had apparently committed suicide that night. They were both in complete shock. They just kept hugging me.
It turns out they didn’t need me to do anything because in that moment they were still reeling from the news. They were devastated.
I said some consoling words to both of them through my own tears and went back to my spot in transition.
I ended up participating in the race. It was a bit of a challenge to get back into “race mode”. I just used the experience to be thankful for my life and the ability, on this day, for me, to be able to do something I so enjoy.
I saw the two women after the race and the young woman recognized me and gave me a huge hug. She just wrapped herself around me.
I think what this woman needed in that moment was another person to care. To be there. To hug her.
You know, I talk about Emotional Availability all the time with my clients. And I think that that is what happened here in this Sunday morning moment. I stepped outside my own “wants” on that morning and made myself emotionally available to these two women. It was a little hard to do because I wanted to race but instead I “went there” emotionally.
So here’s my takeaway thought: You never know when someone is going to need you . YOU. I believe we’re here, on this earth, for this short time, to pay it forward.
Whether it be lending a hand, or a hug. One can never know how important their presence can be to another person.
Most likely I will never see those two women again. I know nothing about them. But I have thought about them all week. I have wondered how the girlfriend is holding up.
My hope for myself is that, given a similar situation in the future, that I would do the same thing again. I also hope that my kids would do the same thing for another person. That they wouldn’t hesitate to jump in, get involved, stand up and care for those who need it most in a moment of need.
After all, we’re in this life together.