Yesterday evening when I was driving home from work I received a text from an unknown, out of state number. Though I often get calls from numbers I don’t recognize on my work cell, when I read through the message I realized it was not meant for me. In the text (without repeating the heartfelt words verbatim) the sender was apologetic for being emotional with the intended recipient and went on to say that they don’t usually cry, that they had reached their capacity for hearing bad news. A second text arrived immediately after the first making light of their emotional state by saying that they had even cried at a cat commercial.
I am used to people sharing their most private and painful feelings because of the work I do. But this was someone I didn’t know, had never seen, would never meet. In those brief seconds it took the texts to come to me I was allowed a glimpse into a virtual stranger’s experience. Their shame at expressing vulnerability, their breaking point after hearing too much bad news. Their feeling that they might have seemed weak.
I often feel awestruck when working with people. On a daily basis I am reminded of what connects us and at the capacity we all have to connect with others and ourselves. In each hour of work I am allowed the honor of witnessing someone on their path and given the opportunity to walk part of the way with them. So I responded to this text-but not as a therapist, as me.
“I’ve had days like that” I said. “I get it” I said. (I also told them I wasn’t sure the texts were meant for me so they could be sent on.)
But maybe they were. Meant for me, I mean. The truth is, there are millions of stories out there. Millions of days filled with joy and heartbreak and loneliness and hope. And we’re all reaching, trying to be heard, trying to find our way. This person and I had a brief exchange with one another, a random intersection, a moment of connection between two lives that suddenly seemed not so far apart. And if it was possible to feel connected to another life because of a wrong number, a life I will never see, what else is possible?
And so I’m sending this message out to you, a message from a sign I saw on a building in January:
You are not alone. Be safe. Be kind. Stay strong. You are loved.