I had yesterday planned with precision.
There would be a Senior Mass and luncheon for my oldest daughter. Muffins with Mom with my youngest son. Then some quick shopping, packing and picking up of kids before I headed across the state to spend the night in Detroit where I needed to collect my Mom at the airport on Saturday morning.
My van had other ideas.
On the way to school, in the rush hour traffic, it began to hiccup. Hmmm….that doesn’t feel right, I thought. Just as my son started to say the same thing, it lost power, all the service lights went on and the check engine light began flashing furiously.
There was no Senior Mass and luncheon.
There was no Muffins with Mom.
There was no leisurely night in metro Detroit.
Fortunately, we were near a cross street where we could safely pull over. Fortunately, I took a friend’s advice and bought roadside assistance after my van stranded me last time. Fortunately, we had good friends who were able to smooth a bad day.
While waiting for the tow truck, I posted about being stranded to Facebook. Multiple people responded to see how they could help. A friend picked us up at the auto shop and drove us home. Another offered to lend me her car. A mom at school taped the 1st graders’ Mother’s Day poem and emailed it.
The experience reminded me of how important it is for widows and single parents to surround themselves with good people.
Where to Find the Good People in Your Life
If you don’t already have those good people in your life, it’s time to start looking.
Family is the logical place to find supportive people. If you don’t have close immediate family, are there cousins, aunts or uncles who might be kindred spirits? Skip the people who are judgmental, overbearing or crass. You don’t need that sort of negativity in your life. If you’re grieving, it’s understandable that you might want to hole up at home, but do your best to accept the invitations of caring family members and connect with them.
Sharing on Facebook gets a bad rap, but I don’t think anyone should feel ashamed about posting their tragedies and triumphs on the site. I also don’t think social media is as impersonal as everyone makes it out to be. When I have needed help – whether that’s borrowing a jean jacket or borrowing a ride – I have found my Facebook friends are quick to respond. In many cases, the friends offering help are people I haven’t seen personally in years or, in some cases, people I’ve never met personally at all. It is amazing how many generous and selfless people are out there. Next time you’re in a pickle, your best ally may be as close as your keyboard.
We belong to our local Gilda’s Club which has a grief group. It’s my understanding that not all Gilda’s Club chapters have that, but you could probably find something similar in your area. It may be the camaraderie of going through a shared experience, but the members of our local group are so generous and often go out of their way to help each other. Depending on the group you join, the organizers or mediators may also be able to connect you to other resources to address any needs you may have.
When Tom was diagnosed with cancer, we were asked repeatedly if we had family nearby who could help. Our answer was always no, but we have a great school. If you have kids, I think the absolute best way to get good people in your life is to send them to a good school. I realize not everyone has the luxury of picking a school, but if you do, I would look for one that is small and flexible and feels like family. I could write pages about how our school has helped us but suffice to say, we’ve connected with so many very, very good people through school.
If you don’t have kids, church may be the next best place to find good people. Ideally, churches should be full of people willing to go out of their way to help others. Maybe your church doesn’t feel that way, and it’s time to find a new parish. However, it could also be that no one helps because no one knows you need help. Joining a ministry or Bible study or other church activity can be a good way to make personal connections.
Maybe you’re not religious. In that case, joining a service organization or volunteering for a charity may be a good way to meet like-minded people. Your community might have a women’s club, friends of the library group or community gardening club. Of course, there are also organizations like Rotary, Lions and Key Club as well. Various chapters have different focuses – some may cater specifically to the business crowd while others are more diverse – so sit in on a meeting before signing on as a member.
Don’t Forget: You are “Good People” Too
I worry that in this talk of surrounding yourself with good people, I may be giving the impression you need to find these good people for selfish reasons. It may seem I am implying that you only need these people so you’ll have someone to help out when life throws a curveball.
Having an army of supportive helpers in the wings is certainly a benefit, but that’s not why I want you to surround yourself with good people. I want you to find these good people because life is too short to walk alone. We need companionship, love and empathy on this journey. And remember, just as you need good people to surround you, they need good people to surround them.
Let me tell you: you are one of those good people too. Share your gifts with others just as they share their gifts with you.
P.S. I now have a new van. Just as you need good people, you also need good tools and technology when you are flying solo through life. After stranding me three times in less than two months, my old van definitely wasn’t falling into the “good tools” category. It was time to say adios.