“Take it easy, pray for each other and look after your neighbor; when you live a long life, you learn to keep it simple” – John Gould, 94-year old Marine when asked if he worries about the Coronavirus (Dallas Morning News, March 15, 2020)
Let me be clear about this from the outset. The life and death issues connected to the Covid-19 disease that’s grimly impacting the citizens of Earth is serious and far more sobering than the temporary suspensions or abrupt cancellations of the sports leagues, but equally, in times of catastrophe, it has been these very same sports leagues that we are drawn to and have looked forward to watching because they have brought inspiration, unity and hope to mankind all over the Earth when calamity has unexpectedly visited us.
In fact, the world of sports has played a significant role in helping people in countries around the globe deal with the horrific atrocities that came to its very doorstep. In my lifetime alone I’m reminded of the devastating massacres that occurred prior to the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City (Tlatelolco) and during the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Closer to home (in the city in which I dwell) it was the Dallas Cowboys who traveled to Cleveland to play the Browns in an NFL game the weekend after President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and more recently, it was the MLB Texas Rangers who helped lift up and inspire people around the DFW Metroplex after five police officers were killed in a massacre in 2016. I’m sure in your town or city when tragedy has come close to home, it’s the athletes and our sports teams that have rallied around us to help us get through the worst of our problems and the dire situations that have beset us.
So it saddens me that today, during moments where we would normally turn to our favorite teams for encouragement or relief, or to inspire us to look inward, upward or to reach out toward each other, that they too have been sidelined. But this time, it’s more than athletes with disrupted seasons who are impacted; this matters, and there are probably no words to describe the anguish they feel for having their season if not career end in this manner, whether they perform at the Jr. High, High School, College or Professional level.
But in addition to the athletes, we have college students whose lives are disrupted because they’re hurriedly leaving dorms, traveling home and having to finish their academic year online. It’s citizens in airports around the world desperately trying to get home to their family. Or it’s parents working out care plans for their children, while some wonder if they’ll have a job to support them, or even worse, how they’ll care for a family member who is recently hospitalized or has succumbed to this deadly disease. These life issues hurt, they hurt us all and they hurt us deeply, sports fan or not.
So I’m reminded of Mr. Gould’s sage and simple advice. Take it easy. Pray to your Higher Power. Pray for each other. Look after your neighbor. Keep it simple. He’s right. This almost centenarian, who has survived WW II and then some, encourages athletes and private citizens, students and parents, old and young alike, closer to home and around the world to remember to engage in simple, caring and doable behaviors when the ominous occurs. And so I’m going to “hitchhike” on his simple message and do the same, and encourage you to pass it on or pay it forward too. At a time like this, when I have more opportunity to use my time, I can’t think of a better way to use my energy.
So what follows are a few bits of advice that I fall back on as a Psychotherapist (but more so as a human being) to help in some way when tragedy hits, and hurts, again. This info spells out the acrostic “Help Others.”
H: Help yourself by connecting with others, versus being alone and isolated. If you’re feeling down, blue, lonely, hopeless or suicidal, then call, text, email or reach out and connect with someone who can help you in this time of need. If you can’t reach someone face-to-face, then try to relax your mind by meditation or reflection, reading inspiring literature or if you have access to media, then listen to your favorite music playlist or watch an inspiring or entertaining movie.
E: Encourage someone else! Empathy begins when you “project yourself into what you observe,” which means if you observe and sense someone needs help, then if possible, lend a helping hand, a smile, or offer a kind word of encouragement or reassurance; your gesture makes a difference! Remember, you’re here on this Earth for a purpose and there’s nothing like volunteering and assisting others to achieve it. Know that the seemingly insignificant act of service really is significant!
L: Live out your faith in humanity by being humane. There’s nothing like tragedy or ordeals to bring out the best in us, especially in the days in which we currently live. No matter what country you’re in, I encourage you to display compassion, calmness, collaboration, creativity and above all care to your fellow man, woman or child!
P: Mr. Gould did encourage us to pray for others. There’s nothing quite like prayer or praying for others to change your opinion of how you see or will eventually treat another person. No matter your faith tradition, I encourage you to go to your God and intercede on behalf of others regarding the plight they may be enduring. I pray that you’re led by your God to do something that is good, helpful and above all supportive to others, and allow yourself to take in their gratitude when they convey their thanks to you!
O: To start or generate these acts of kindness, I encourage you to open up and access the best of your creativity by exercising and bio-balancing your body. I’m serious. There’s nothing like taking a walk or run at a park (remember social distancing!) or on a treadmill to burn the adrenalin in your body, decrease your distress and to stimulate bilateral functioning between your logical left and creative right hemispheres in your brain. I’m not surprised that the ideas for this post were developed when I was exercising! I wonder what intuitive, creative and detail-oriented solutions will come to your mind when you’re out there helping yourself via exercise!
T: I do encourage you to be a “Therapist,” which is a lot like being a Healer. No, you don’t need a degree to do this, and it’s easier than you think! The classical Greek word for Healing is Therapeia, and it is comprised of the following “ingredients”: Demonstrating the appropriate Care, Attention, Help, Service, Ministering to Others while you Minister to Yourself. Think you could be on the lookout for moments and opportunities to demonstrate these characteristics? When you do then consider yourself a Therapist!
H: What comes to mind when you think about helping others or observing the help they may need? Athletes (and Team Owners) are using their resources and influence to help employees who are going without paychecks by donating funds, raising funds through their participation in “sandlot” activities or donating their time and energy to others (as my son and his teammates are currently doing in Cuba; pray for their safe return!). How about you? Don’t sell yourself short on what you can do to alleviate the suffering of others. Every action helps and it counts. Take some time, think about what you can do, consider your situation and ability, then do it.
E: Equally, don’t sell yourself short on your ability to Encourage, Empower, Empathize or Esteem others, but remember, you’ll also want to take good care of yourself. Years ago I wrote a series of posts (“The Killer D’s and the Empowering E’s”) and one of the “E” words that I wish to call to your attention to is Endurance. I define Endurance as “the act or power of enduring or bearing pain, hardships and demonstrating the ability or strength to continue or last, despite fatigue, stress or other adverse conditions.”
The classical Greek definition of Endurance describes a person who is patient toward things or circumstances and refuses to be defeated, beaten, conquered, or worn out. In order to Endure, I encourage you to access activities or experiences that help you to rest and replenish versus become overwhelmed and resigned. By all means, as you help others to Endure their circumstances, make sure you find ways to refresh and renew yourself!
R: It goes without saying to (w)rap your arms around someone today because healthy physical touch is healthy, and everyone loves (and may desperately need) hugs, kisses or a pat on the back to let them know you’re there with and for them. Psychotherapist Virginia Satir said “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” No matter how young or old, I hope you receive your 24+ moments of connection with others!
S: So in ending this post on helping others, I’m going to remind you to access your support system. I hope there are people close to you in the form of Pastors, Rabbis, Priests, Spiritual Guides, Therapists, Psychiatrists or just good friends that you could turn to for support, assistance, understanding, compassion, and love. If you’re shut in, remember you can access them via FaceTime, TeleHealth or TeleMedicine. Something tells me that we’re going to need a lot of support and love from others before things get better.
That’s why watching or being involved in sports activities is so important; it brings us together to connect with our support system and when we connect with them, we usually have a lot of fun with them, and boy could we use some connections like this now!
Sadly, we’re seeing that many people have had their lives disrupted not only because of the cessation of sports activities, but many of those same people might have lost their support system (not to mention their income) when their ability to connect via sports was interrupted. Should I keep the importance of sports in perspective? Absolutely. Sports and the people who engage in it, whether as an athlete or as an observer, will always have and share a symbiotic, and hopefully empowering relationship, and I can’t wait until it is resumed!
Until then, I hope this short piece has generated in you a few ideas about how you could constructively use your energy to help others now, when the season restarts, and beyond it.
By the way, this was my bracket for the NCAA’s. I think my team would have come out on top!
Thanks for taking the time to read this, and as time permits, please visit the other blogs written by Dr. Ken McGill: Daily Bread for Life and “3 – 2 – 5 – 4 – 24″ for additional information that could be helpful.
I welcome your comments below or via email and your favorites, your retweets and your “+1’s” if you have a brief moment and find the information helpful.