A few months ago I started watching the television show “Glee.” I know, I’m late to the party like I am to so many parties. The series ended several years ago. What can I say? I’m too busy watching Manchester United, I suppose. And living with two daughters, I don’t always have control over the remote.
The show is about high schoolers who join the glee club. They are all incredibly talented. Incredibly. It makes me wish I were at least a little bit talented.
It was a strange confluence for me to be wrapped up in watching the show and then read that one of the actors had died from a drug overdose, probably a suicide. On the screen I’m watching a vibrant life, but at the same time I know that this light is gone from us.
As I watched some episodes of “Glee,” I playfully wondered if I could go back and make different choices in my younger years, could I have made it big with my vocal and rhythm talents? (I assure you the answer is no.) But could I have made different choices about what I said to people at key points, or even in ordinary moments, that might have made a difference in their lives?
Or perhaps I might have uncovered a different talent altogether. I spent some time with an Emergency Department pediatrician, which was just astonishing. I shadowed him for an understanding of how mental health issues present among young people in the Emergency Department. He was a teaching resident, but mainly he was making people feel better by being kind. The example that sticks most strongly in my mind was what he said to parents who were weighed down with worry about their baby.
“You’re really good parents.”
Those gentle words made a world of difference to their well-being in a stressful circumstance.
I wanted to be him. Or at least a children’s nurse or a children’s doctor.
Then I got to thinking about something that gives me both great joy and great pain, and my granddaughter Skye’s face came into my mind. I had been to England and seen her recently, which was wonderful beyond words. But when it was time to get on the plane and return to Boston, saying goodbye and seeing her cry—and crying myself—was painful beyond description.
When we think about things that were painful, the pain returns, and the pain influences our state of well-being in the present just as it did in the past. And if our general support is not well support, that pain in turn can lead to tragedies like overdoses and suicides.
As much as I would love to have the talent of the characters on “Glee, the fantasy of starring in a boy band, or even the simple consistent wisdom of knowing the right thing to say to put worried parents at ease, I am occasionally capable of realism. And what is clear to me in those moments is that what I can do to make a difference that matters, is love well. It would delight me to travel through time and space to hug Skye every night or at least on Saturday nights. I would not get famous or make a lot of money, but it would be a gift to our hearts.
And love is always the greatest and most enduring—and life-saving—gift we give to one another, whether across a table or across an ocean. Let us not neglect it for all the talents in the world.
South Shore Mental Health