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3 Simple Ways to Help a Crying Stranger

In July I flew alone with Vivi from Salt Lake to Indianapolis with a layover in Chicago. Vivi was freshly mobile and keeping her entertained, occupied and contained on the plane proved really, really difficult. Thinking I had a bit of a layover where I could let her run free and perhaps exhaust some of her independent spirit, I fell into heaps and sobs when I stepped off my first plane only to discover my next plane was already boarding.

Things progressed quickly into a panic attack complete with the ugly cry and no one in that busy Chicago airport said a word to me.

No one.

When I wrote about it people were so kind to say if they had been there, they would have done something. Other people were completely honest and said “If it were me? I would want everyone and everything to stay away from me and leave me alone.” Other people had been burned while trying to help someone in distress and most people were left saying “I would want to do something, but I have no idea what.”

I’ve thought back to that night a lot, I was even tested a week later when I witnessed a woman fall and hurt her foot at a drug store, it’s as if the universe was saying “You talk big game about helping people, what are you going to about it?” I was on the floor beside her, picking up her things and demanding a chair for her. I helped her get what she came to the store for and stayed with her until things were resolved. The store employees asked if I was with her and when I said no they seemed surprised.

We shouldn’t be surprised that humans help other humans.

I understand that not everyone is willing to be on the front emotional lines, but from my experience, and after learning so much from others there are exactly three things anyone can do to help another person in distress.

  • Always carry tissues. One of those little packages in your purse or a box nearby at work. Hand over the entire box or package if you see someone crying, you don’t have to say anything. Just smile and pass off the snot rags. It acknowledges the person without making them feels as though they have to answer to you or explain what’s wrong. They also probably appreciate not having to use their sleeve.
  • Bottled water. If you’re in the airport, or somewhere where trusty water is available, hand it off. Again, silently if that’s your style. If you’re in a restaurant or gas station setting you could always move it up to hot chocolate or coffee, but water is safe. Everyone drinks water just like everyone uses tissues when they cry.
  • Candy, especially hard candy. It’s been proven that little comfort items like hard candy go a long way in soothing an emotional soul. It’s why military MRE meals always have a sweet treat in them and it’s also why emergency preparedness checklists always have candy or gum listed on it. But don’t just go handing out that weird candy that no one really trusts and everyone throws away on Halloween, stick with the good stuff. The stuff everyone knows, like gold wrapped and labeled Werther’s caramels. If caramel is the bacon of the treat world, you’ll come across very few people who will turn down the metaphorical bacon candy.

There’s a reason little old ladies are stereotyped as having hard candy and tissues in their bag, because there is a time and a place for it. Now if we could all just be a little tiny bit more like old ladies and be prepared to hand off a little bit of comfort when tears flow, the world would be a much happier place.

A big thanks to Werther’s for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.

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Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy. She’s also available on twitter, facebook, flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.

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