When I wrote Paying It Backward, I’m not sure I really expected some of the results I’ve experienced. Of course my hope was two-fold. First, I hoped that some descendants of a man who greatly impacted my life would know about it. Second, I wished that the story might inspire readers to consider how small actions can have big impacts.
I’m happy to report that I’ve heard from my bus driver friend’s son and some grandchildren and great-grandchildren! I’ve learned that Otis was born in 1899 in New Hampshire and moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1924. He operated trolley cars long before driving busses. It has been great fun to compare impressions and memories of him. The word “kindly” seems to be used often.
It seemed a bit odd to learn that Otis’s son is now 84 years old! Time does march on, I guess. And even stranger to realize that if he was still alive, Otis would now be 117.
One result of writing about the experience I didn’t expect is that the “Otis story” would become the apex of a presentation I would develop entitled, “Finding Dead Rainbows–where you stand makes a difference.” Initially, I was thinking that finding hope is often a matter of perspective–where we stand can make a difference in what we see. It was later that I realized Otis not only rescued me by letting me stand in front of the line; he also gave me hope.
Offering hope need not be complicated. I recently taught a class of adults and discovered one student who was my rainbow. Every time I looked her way, she was looking at me with a slight smile, clearly engaged and enjoying the learning experience. Anyone who has taught or spoke to groups knows how easy it is to focus on the person who has dozed off or is clearly not paying attention. But who can resist a rainbow?
After once telling the Otis story in a presentation, one listener approached me, admitting he almost cried. “Do you realize how different your life might have been if it were not for Otis?” he asked. I thought I did until he speculated, “You might have become a very different person… or in jail or maybe even dead.” My first reaction was that he was being a bit dramatic, but later I thought perhaps not.
A bully hurts. A bus driver helps. A smile makes a difference. We can decide what shapes our future. We can also help shape the future of others.
Like it or not, texting has become a huge part of many people’s lives. At least one estimate I saw recently suggested that the average high school student sends about 300 texts in the course of a day! While some of us are still adjusting to this way of communicating, it is growing by leaps and bounds. So I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover an amazing person and an amazing resource that’s all about texting. The amazing person is Nancy Lubin. The amazing resource is the Crisis Text Line.
There are some similarities to the traditional Crisis Phone Lines, but there are also some amazing differences. The program has already handled nearly ten million text messages ranging from addiction to sexual abuse to suicidal thoughts. Anyone can send the simple message “go” (or “Hello” or “start”) to 741-741. It’s confidential, anonymous, and free. An automated response will ask about the crisis… and here’s where this gets really amazing. Thanks to data and algorithms, the response to the question will ensure that the text goes to a counselor trained to handle that specific type of crisis.
I discovered the Crisis Text Line while preparing for the upcoming classes I’ll be teaching. I also just learned that an agency in the area is sending some of their employees to one of those Suicide Awareness Classes and that’s encouraging! These classes are not just for school employees, nor do they demand or expect more than you can give. Just helping make information like the crisis text line available can be an effective support to someone who’s troubled. (Information will be distributed during the class, but you can also access it at http://www.crisistextline.org/. There’s even a flyer you can post with the number to text as a tear-off portion.)
Someone who may not want to talk may be very willing to text. Let’s get this number out and available: 741-741.
You can learn more about this incredible program and the woman who started it by watching her ten minute TED Talk. I’m comfortable guaranteeing you’ll be impressed!
Yes, this is about suicide prevention… but it’s also about mental health! Learn some of the signs that a person is troubled and how you can make a difference. You’ll also receive resources available and materials produced by the Maine Suicide Prevention Program. (Click the image to see a larger size.)
Walter Boomsma (“Mr. Boomsma”) writes on a wide array of topics including personal development, teaching and learning. Course information is also available here!