Helpful Ways to Take Care of Our Tribe
This wasn’t the blog post I had planned for today. But this topic is heavy on my heart right now. I think it’s an important topic. One I know I need to be reminded about from time to time.
For the last four years I’ve been running the workshop and open mic at the Joke Joint Comedy Club. Comics of all levels, from those who have never stepped foot on a stage and have no idea what they’ll say when they take the mic out of the stand to nationally touring comics stop in to try out their jokes. I’m so fortunate to get to do this because it allows me to meet so many interesting people. And I like to think I put a lot into it. I try to remember everyone’s name and little bits of information about them.
This week as I was listening to a new comic talk about the complexities of being separated from his wife but still living in the same house with her, it occurred to me that comedy workshop (and comedy as a whole for that matter) is like the Statue of Liberty. We welcome people from all walks of life. They come to us with their pain and suffering. They share their vulnerabilities on stage. Because comedy is tragedy + time. And while their pain may not be funny right now because often times it’s still a fresh wound, eventually it will be. And they will use comedy to get through it while at the same time making people laugh, many of whom can relate to their scenario all too well.
Yesterday I came across this article about a man who allegedly (I’m not sure if I have to say that, so I’m covering my butt) murdered his estranged wife and a professor. When I saw the picture of the murdered woman I knew she looked familiar, like someone who used to come to the Joke Joint workshop. But what are the chances of that?
At the end of the article, it mentioned that she like comedy open mics. Then I searched our Joke Joint Facebook group and sure enough there was her name on the open mic list from about two years ago. I learned later on Facebook in a local comedy group, it appeared that she was more active in improv. People that knew her from improv said she was a ray of light. That was my impression of her, as well. I found her smart and really likable.
People come to workshop and open mic for awhile. Then sometimes they just stop showing up. Sometimes they’ll pop back into the comedy scene months or years down the road. But many times they just move on and you never know why or where they went. Or a comedy friend might run into them somewhere and catch up with them then tell you about it. Sometimes you see something about them on social media that sheds light on why they aren’t doing comedy anymore like they have a new job, new relationship, or new baby. But many times it’s a mystery as to why they aren’t around anymore. Did they decide they didn’t like doing comedy? Did they move out of the area? You just never know.
This situation got me thinking about taking care of each other. Really, truly, honest to goodness caring for one another. I don’t know about you, but I could definitely do a better job of taking care of people in my life. Not just my loved ones and those closest to me, but those that I come in contact with less frequently. Those that I have less of a connection to but for whatever reason hold a special place in my life or heart. Those that I find interesting and look foward to talking to, even if it’s only in brief spurts. Those that pop into my mind for one reason or another.
There’s people that I think about but I don’t reach out because I don’t want them to think I’m weird for thinking of them. How ridiculous is that? I don’t want people to know that I care about them. I’d rather not reach out to them because they might think I’m weird. I hate that I overthink these situations rather than acting on my instinct to get in touch with them.
I hate that I do this. Sometimes I get too proud to reach out. Or maybe it’s more spiteful Either way, it’s not a trait that I like in myself. I think, ‘I always reach out to them. They can start reaching out to me.’ like I need to keep score. Like it only matters if we’re both doing an equal job or maintaining our relationship. What. The. Heck?!
Friendship isn’t based on reciprocity. My friend Paul used to say that to me in high school. It’s a great mantra. Unfortunately, I can do a pretty poor job of remembering it.
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Sometimes we need to do most of the work. Other times we do very little work. Nothing is ever split 50–50. Sure, life might seem easier if it was even Steven. But in reality, I doubt that we’d get much out of a life where everyone did their fair share and no one had to do any more or any less.
So how can we take care of one another? I’ve come up with a few ideas.
Little things. We can do little things to let people know we’re thinking them. We can send a handwritten note letting them know they are on our mind. We can leave a meal in the refrigerator when we know they’re coming home from a trip and may not be ready to return to real life, let alone have to think about preparing a dinner. We can leave Post It notes all over their desk with words of encouragement.
Catch up. Take time to catch up with one another. Whether it be over coffee or over the phone, spent some time catching up with people. If you invest in them I’ll bet they will invest in you. Too many times people don’t reach out.
Recognize when things are off. If you notice someone acting differently than normal, it might be time to ask some questions. See what is really going on with them. You don’t have to pepper them with a lot of questions, but give them the chance to share if they need to. Open the door to the conversation and see if they walk through it.
Ask questions. No one likes when someone talks about themselves all the time. So ask questions about how things are going with them.
Listen without solving. You don’t have to have all the answers or solve their problems. Really, truly listening to them can go a long way toward making a person feel loved and cared for. Sometimes we just want to vent without having anyone say any or react to what they are saying.
Meet them where they’re at. Notice how others show you they care because this can be a big indicator of how best to show them you care. For instance, my sister is really great at sending me text messages saying she loves me. So I try to do a better job of being the first to send her a text letting her know I’m thinking of her because I know that she values that.
How do you care for others in your life?