Earlier this month an acquaintance from high school passed away. We grew up a few blocks from each other but was a few years older than me. He was in Vocal Jazz. I was in the Stage Band. Music was a big deal in my high school and the band & vocal groups toured together often and I got to know him a bit a during our travels.
He was a totally cool guy — one of those high school icons. Everybody knew who he was. He was kind, friendly, outgoing, and had a razor-sharp wit that would make the entire group burst out laughing. He could quickly and deftly put a bully in his place (which would also make the entire group burst out laughing). If anyone had asked me to define the word “extrovert” I would have immediately said his name.
We knew each other but we weren’t more than acquaintances. We always said hello to each other in the halls and I was thrilled when he accepted my Facebook friend request 30 years (OMG yes 30 years!) after we graduated.
The thing is, I never told him how much I appreciated his sense of humour, his extrovertedness, or the way he just shut down those mean kids in high school (Man, he had cojones!).
And now it’s too late.
I know the reason behind the Bell Let’s Talk initiative is to remove stigma from, and have open, honest discussions about, mental health. Yes, we do need to do that but we also need to talk to each other. Really talk — and really listen.
The internet was supposed to be promote the interconnectedness of everything. Email, then social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat) were supposed to bring us closer together so we could relate to each other. Instead, people post irrelevant memes and advertisers clog the space peddling their wares.
So, here is my challenge on this Bell Let’s Talk Day — start talking. Say what is important. Respond to other people. Open a discussion. I don’t care if it’s about religion, politics, books, cookie recipes, Superheroes or science fiction. Just have a real conversation.
And remember if someone is talking, LISTEN. Listen to understand, not to reply. Set aside your self, your opinions, your beliefs, and accept someone for who they are and from where they come. Watch this excellent TEDx talk by Celeste Headlee and learn to have better conversations — in person and on social media. And as that old Bell TV commercial used to tell us, reach out and touch someone.