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Are You OK?

A while back, I came across a blog entry via Twitter that brought attention to an Australian social campaign called R U OK?┬áIt promotes starting conversations to let people know that they are cared about and to help them voice things that are not OK in their lives so that help can be provided before a situation becomes a crisis. It’s a beautifully simple concept really, and one that could realistically save a life.

This morning, I was reminded of this campaign as I was sitting on my front step waking up with a cup of coffee. This is a small community so most people know each other. When a car drove up slowly into my neighbor’s driveway, I noticed it of course but did not think much of it until the door opened and no one got out. The elderly man in the driver’s seat sat there for a few minutes and then put his head down, chin-to-chest, occasionally looking around then putting his head back down for a couple minutes. From this angle, he was acting as I’ve seen people with dementia act when they are confused, not knowing quite where they are or why.

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Alarmed, I got up but he picked his head back up and reached for something in his car. He seemed OK for the moment but I kept watching. After a few minutes of him just sitting there, his head began to sink again, so I went inside to get my phone in case I needed to call anyone. I headed over to his car and quietly asked him, “Are you OK?”

Startled, he jumped and stared at me for a moment before angrily telling me, “I’m napping!” The tone of voice made me take a step back and apologize, telling him I didn’t know if he needed help and I was just checking on him. He nodded then, and turned to put his head back down.

Since this was not anyone who lived there or anyone I had ever seen, I kept watch from my front step for about 10 minutes longer. Finally, he got out of the car and slowly made it to the front door where my neighbors apparently knew him and they helped him in. I apologized for startling him and was thanked with a smile and a wave that communicated to me, “It’s OK.”

Even though everything was OK this time, there may be a time that someone does really need help. The responsibility falls on all of us to be aware of the situations around us and to be proactive, asking even a total stranger… “Are you OK?”

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