Make time to get beyond the surface

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Ray Cirasa
  • 71st Logistics Readiness Squadron commander
You're almost late for an important meeting. You're walking down the hall with purpose, mind focused on the preparation you didn't get around to. From the corner of your eye you notice somebody hunched over with his face in his hands.

Not normal. You do a double take. He picks his head up and looks like he's carrying the weight of the world. His eyes are a bit red. He meets your glance and does a pretty good job of regaining the tough outer shell and positive attitude you're used to seeing. "Is everything okay?" you ask. "Oh yeah, living the dream," he says. His tone and body language tell you he's ready to end this short conversation. What next?

The scenario could go countless directions from here. Are you aware of stresses in his life? Depending on the circumstances, you might skip your meeting. Or you might ask someone else to check on him. You might return that afternoon to strike up conversation. The answer to "What next?" is that you have to do something.

Getting involved is the right thing to do from many angles: friendship, citizenship, spirituality, mission effectiveness, etc. And if you happen to be in a position of leadership, getting involved is your job.

What about privacy? It's important. We've got to respect it and know when to step back from a situation or try a different approach. But it's no excuse for inaction.

Genuine concern applied with a bit of tact usually leads to healthy conversation about the challenges we face in life. We share thoughts and experiences or offer a helping hand and get through the tough times together.

That alone is tremendously valuable, as stated by Dr. C. H. Mayo, founder of the Mayo Clinic. "One friend, one person who is truly understanding, who takes the trouble to listen to us as we consider a problem, can change our whole outlook on the world." In some cases, concern and persistent involvement can uncover the depths of despair or prevent tragedy.

"Doing something" starts long before there's any reason for concern. Your effectiveness in a stressful, perhaps very personal, crisis can hinge on the relationship you've built up to that point.

Have you fostered goodwill and trust? Do you take time from the busy day to get to know those around you? In the essay "Life Without Principle," Henry David Thoreau wrote, "The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer." A person in need is more likely to speak if you've already proven to be a good listener.

Of course, you may come across an issue you're not best suited personally to handle. Are you practically a stranger? If so, maybe you're not the right person for the job, but you can approach someone with closer ties for assistance. Is the subject way out of your league? Experts are a phone call, Web site or first sergeant away.

These are busy times, and sometimes the urgent steals our attention from what's most important. Stay observant. Stay in touch. Make time to get beyond the surface.