Building bridges to others’ islands

bridgeStill thinking about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. Not just for itself, but for all the implications of the tragedy and what our society should take away from it to improve. I’ve also had some family issues that have played into this topic that have weighed on my mind quite heavily. Again, as I wrote about the other day, I am not going to go into issues of gun control versus unfettered gun availability. It’s an incredibly divisive topic and one that both can’t be solved (most likely) and can’t solve all the problems we’ve been seeing in our society.

Individuals’ mental health and happiness is what either makes our society better for everyone or, conversely, makes it more difficult for everyone, if it’s not tended carefully enough. I firmly believe that families are the central unit of society, and I don’t think that there would be too much argument with me when I say that the family is breaking down. We have many single-parent families and many children who simply are not getting the nurturing they need for a LOT of reasons. Families provide an automatic place of refuge and help when any member has a need of any kind. So what happens when families throughout society are broken? Many individuals have no one to go to for help. Fortunately, some have friends and other caring people in their lives who can be a second line of “defense,” but many others do not have that. What’s left is either no one or the government. Neither is an adequate source of complete help. As much as we try to shore up and improve government programs, they simply cannot replace or do as good a job as families, in most cases.

Yeah, yeah, I’m being an idealist here. But what’s wrong with trying to reach for the best, with trying to get our society back to a place where it truly could make people better and happier? Why can’t we improve those lines of defense and help, and shore up families? It would help so much more than anything stopgap we could create through government (and no, I am NOT saying there should be no government programs; I am saying they cannot replace the ideal).

The truth of the matter is that each of us needs a group of people who care for us and about us and who can be depended on in times of need. Sadly (and please, if you are my friends or family, do not take this as an indictment or rebuke but maybe just a little hint of encouragement), there have been times I’ve felt alone and misunderstood, particularly when I’ve been in my worst places mental-health-wise. I know that it can be difficult to understand and really help me at those times, but it’s still worth a try. (I think I’m worth it! šŸ™‚ ) I so appreciate family members and close friends who have reached out at those times to just talk, listen, or do something encouraging and supportive. Every little gesture means a lot.

I suppose that’s why I feel so sensitive to those around me. I can just feel their pain and loneliness and helplessness sometimes, and I want to be able to help. Sometimes I can do something useful; other times I can’t. But I try and I pray.

Each of us needs help, and those in our circles need help, at one time or another. The people who have done the most heinous crimes in society (particularly who have histories of mental illness that’s unchecked/untreated) have needed someone to pay attention and do something. As I wrote before, sometimes even with our best help, because of society’s lack of understanding of mental illness and the current regulations and laws that are in place, the family members and friends of those who are struggling simply have their hands tied and can’t do a darn thing. But in other cases, something could change if a few more people just listened and saw a few signs.

No man is an island. No child, no woman. We’re all connected, and while we can’t possibly help everyone out there (I’ve written about that too!), we can each do a little better to pay attention and be sensitive. We can’t solve others’ problems, but we can provide an idea or two if appropriate or we can simply listen or say something kind or encouraging. We can reach out. Build a bridge to someone else’s island.

That can begin in our families. No doubt that if we are related somehow, we should be there for a family member in need, if at all possible. And those in our other circles can benefit from our improved “radar.”

Just do a little better. Keep your eyes open and your ears listening a bit more. Say something, do something. It’ll benefit our whole society.

Author: Cathy Carmode Lim

I'm a copy editor, writer, and book reviewer with three decades of experience. My book review website is I'm a mom of four and grandma of three.

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