Sometimes life is hard. Not an action, just a reading.

  • By Sandra Garrett

I have depression and some days life is hard. Too hard to get out of bed. Yesterday was one of those days. I had a panic attack and turned out all the lights in my apartment and rocked myself to sleep in a corner of my apartment until I had to wake up for one phone call today, which I took, then grabbed a bag of Chex mix, put my maternity pillow in my bed and dozed through a marathon of Law and Order SVU until 8:00 PM, waking up periodically to turn over go back and cry myself to sleep. 
 With some tough love from a good friend I was able to get myself into the shower and worked up the courage to leave the house. I made it halfway to my favorite bar, thinking that a familiar atmosphere, a favorite bartender, and a good book could help before I collapsed on the sidewalk, unable to make it the 6 blocks without calling a friend because each step was weighing me down even more.
 After the phone call I made it to the bar. My favorite bartender bringing me my usual “surprise beer” didn’t help. I had to choke it down and I cried in the corner of the bar as I waited to close out. I knew if I went home I’d just try to drink more of the painful weight away with the bottle of vodka I had in the freezer, so I wanted to do something else. I remembered back to high school when I used to have panic attacks after vicious fights with my mom. Afterwards, I would drive to Starbucks, one of the only places to go in my small town, and get a vanilla crème and it would make me feel better, so I decided to try that. 
 Tonight, I went to the closest 24/7 Starbucks. Waiting in line, I could feel the weight of my depression puling me closer to the floor. I could hardly get out the words for my drink. 
 Vanilla crème in hand I looked around for a seat to read my book in. A book about a 16-year-old girl that committed suicide. My eyes landed on a seat across from an elderly man on his phone. I asked him if the chair across from his was taken and he said he was waiting for me. I flopped down, opened up my kindle and tried to start reading, but this man wanted to talk.

I felt exasperated, thinking “just leave me to read my book about suicide in peace and let me wallow in my sadness” but this man must have sensed that was not what I needed. He asked me how my night was, I shrugged my shoulders in response and asked how his was. He said he was an Uber driver and was waiting for the bars to close. I nodded, trying to get back to my book. He proceeded to tell me how much he loved being an Uber driver. He said he asked every one of his passengers to tell him a joke. I told him I never remember jokes. His reply was that he’d give me some:

“Why did the scarecrow win an Oscar?
 “Because he was outstanding in his field”
 “What’s the difference between Dubai and Abu Dhabi?”
 “Dubai doesn’t watch the Flintstones and Abudhabidooo”
 How can you not chuckle at that?
 I asked how long he had been driving for Uber and he said 1 and 1/2 years. One of the things he loved about driving for Uber was that when he was having a bad day he could go back through the comments that his passengers left him and it always put a smile on his face. I didn’t know Uber drivers could even see comments. He proceeded to hand me his phone and show me a list of nice things people had said to and about him since August 2015. The majority of them were along the lines of “I feel like I made a new friend during my trip!” or other jokes to remember
 His jokes, and the rows and rows of nice comments I was viewing made me chuckle and put a smile on my face during a day where I didn’t think that was possible. 
 I asked him his name, it’s Sterling, and I said, “Sterling, I’ve had a really bad day. A day that I didn’t think was going to get better and in just a couple of minutes you’ve made me smile and laugh, I am so grateful. I am going to go home and go to bed while the smile is still on my face. Can I give you a hug?” 
 And he laughed, stood up, and hugged me. I took my vanilla crème and walked home with my head held a little bit higher, the energy from his conversation holding me up.

One of the reason’s Jon started this project is because the US is a nation divided right now. Everyone is so focused on what’s hard for them, they don’t stop to think that things might be hard for the person sitting in the chair across from them at Starbucks, and they certainly don’t wonder if they can make that person’s day better.

Today’s action is to do something nice for someone else. Change starts with connecting with others. The world is made better by thinking of your neighbor. Maybe your action will be to tell a stranger, or a friend, a joke. Maybe it’s to buy the person behind you at Starbucks a drink. Whatever it is that you decide to do, I can guarantee it will make that person’s day better, it will make you feel better, and it will make the world a little bit better.
 Thank you, Sterling the Uber driver from Hayward.