To the young couple with the daughter on the train out of Barcelona:
Thank you for everything you did for us. When we realized that the scenery looked different than we remembered, we were afraid we had gotten on the wrong train, one that was not stopping at the airport as we had hoped. The look on your faces when Julie asked you in her best (but halting) Spanish confirmed our fears.
As we sat and tried to figure out our next steps, you could have just ignored us and gone on about your day, especially as you speak English only about as well as we speak Spanish. Instead, you tried your best to help us, giving us advice about the next stop, and suggesting that we take a taxi rather than waiting for the next train going toward Barcelona. It was a good idea; it would cost us more money than the train, but at least it would give us a chance of making our flight.
At the next stop, which was apparently your stop as well, you could have just left us and gone home. Instead, you pointed us to the taxi stand, offered to call a cab for us, and finally flagged down a taxi and told the driver where we needed to go. With that help, and some hustle through the airport, we made our flight to Granada (barely), and did not have to reschedule a flight or sleep in the airport or pay for extra hotel nights, all of which I was afraid we might have to do.
I wish I knew your names and address to send you a thank you in person. Since I don’t, we’ll have to make sure that we pay it forward by helping out travelers who are confused or lost, even if we don’t know their language or have any reason to to help them other than sheer kindness.
Gracias por todo!
… but I’m going to. I am getting courage from the people in my networks who are posting about their struggles with depression and/or anxiety. I’m remembering the oh-so-slow dawning of my own understanding that what I have is a disease, not a character flaw. And I’m hoping that by struggling through writing this, someone who is reading it might be able to skip some of the difficulties I had.
I have had bouts of depression since I was a child, more or less frequently over the years. I’ve been on medication for the condition for several years now, and have been in and out of talk therapy for more than two decades. I’ve learned coping strategies, red flags for when it’s coming on, and how to soldier on and function in public even through a full-blown episode.
I have rarely if ever discussed this with anyone other than my wife. So I am grateful for people whom I respect working to reduce the stigma of mental illnesses, and bring them out into the open. Thank you, especially, to Nick Provenzano and Joe Massa for bringing Project Semicolon to educators with #semicolonEDU.
I’ll be traveling on the 14th, so here’s my solidarity picture ahead of time:
Well-Meaning Friend: “How are you doing?”
Me (summoning up a lot of courage): “I’m in a bout of depression, so I’m feeling pretty down.”
Well-Meaning Friend: “I’m sorry about that. What are you depressed about?”
Me: “I’m not depressed about anything. It’s a disease that produces chemical imbalances in my brain that affect my mood. In reality, I don’t have anything to be depressed about. I have a great life, family and friends who love me, financial security, good health, a fulfilling and rewarding career. That’s why depression is called a ‘mental illness’ and not a ‘perfectly reasonable response to terrible circumstances.'”