“You don’t have to be a therapist to be therapeutic” is a saying that has become our mantra at The Guidance Center. A friend of mine recently told me a story that perfectly shows what this means.
My friend has a teacup Pomeranian named Cupcake. When he takes Cupcake for a walk, they pass the home of a little girl with cancer. This little girl has fallen in love with Cupcake, and my friend takes the time every day to stop and let them play together. He talks to the little girl while she pets Cupcake, and they have become friends.
Since the Coronavirus pandemic, this little girl hasn’t been allowed out to see my friend or to pet Cupcake. Her health is too tenuous, so she is limited to waving from the window. My friend still makes sure to stop and acknowledge her.
One day, the little girl’s father came running out with a small bouquet of flowers that his daughter picked for Cupcake. She wanted the little dog to remember her and know she still loves her. My friend brought the flowers home and put them in a special vase next to Cupcake’s food. My friend took a photo for the little girl to show her how much Cupcake loves the flowers.
I share this story with you in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month in May. My friend isn’t a therapist. He is simply a nice man. He didn’t need to stop to talk with that little girl. He didn’t need to take the time to let her play with Cupcake. He didn’t need to take those flowers home. He chooses to really see this little girl. He takes the time to engage with her. Whether he knows it or not, those interactions clearly have great value to her.
During this “Safer at Home” order, it is harder to stay connected, but we can all do small things to help take care of each other’s mental health. Kindness goes further than you might imagine.
I worry the most about children in unsafe homes. Child abuse and domestic violence reports have decreased by 50% in the past month—not because it’s not happening, but because those who normally report it, teachers and school counselors, are not seeing kids face-to-face. When they are able to speak with children via Zoom or on the phone, most kids don’t have the privacy or feel comfortable to share if they’re in danger.
This is where we can support each other and be that therapeutic person for someone. We have to get creative. Perhaps we can talk to your neighbors through a fence, or write special messages with chalk on the sidewalk or post drawings in our windows. Tie a balloon on someone’s mailbox with a note. Help each other to feel seen.
At The Guidance Center, we still see you. We want you to know that we are still here. We are doing everything in our power to be there for you now, and to be ready for those who will need us when this is all over.
In health and gratitude,
Patricia Costales, LCSW
Chief Executive Officer
This blog was originally published on The Grunion