I held a man’s head in my hands for 20 minutes last week, in a town I meant to stop in for just a minute. I hovered close to his ear and talked to him quietly. This man was a stranger, a man named Jay, who had been hit by a car seconds earlier.
I was exiting off a highway in NY and as I got to the end of the ramp there was a man in the opposite lane, lying awkwardly on the road. A woman was just getting out of her car, a car with a severe dent on the front. A man was approaching with a phone in his hand.
I stopped my car right in the ramp lane. There was no one behind or in front of me. I left my car running and the door ajar as I strode over to the pale man lying there. The man with the phone was calling for help a few feet away. The woman was talking loudly, “I didn’t see him, I hit him, and I didn’t see him. Don’t move! Don’t move!“ She stood a few feet away. Someone needed to go close.
It was cloudy and it had been raining steadily. Jay was lying on his left side, awake, holding his head off the pavement as if he was standing up. He was pale. He was grimacing. His breathing was a little heavy. He was saying his back hurt. His left arm was extended out. His watch was on his left wrist but the strap was broken. His arm looked a little awkward and he tried to move it a bit but then did not or could not.
I squatted down and then got on my knees and said, Sir; I am going to support your head for you.
I placed my 2 hands under his head, my right hand supporting his jaw and cheek, my left hand supporting his head where hair would have been had he not been bald. I told him he could relax his head into my hands. I rested my elbows on my thighs so I could hold him steady and in the same position he had held himself in. I was close and leaned over him so that the hood of my own rain jacket protected his head from the rain, too. It took a minute or two but he slowly trusted me with taking over the weight of his head.
I talked to him in a low voice. I told him my name and asked his. I just tried to reassure him: Jay, a man called 911…when they get here they will know just how to move you... see if you can breathe a little deeper, a little slower… that is better…. your face has better color in it now… it does not look like you are bleeding anywhere…. The woman who says she hit you is right near her car; she is waiting for the police…
His eyes would close and he would be quiet and I would say, Are you still with me, Jay? And he would say Yes, I am here. He said it with his eyes closed. So we had a few minutes of rest together. Rain soaked into the knees of my jeans and landed on his pants and shirt but our heads were dry under the hood of my jacket. His breathing was slow and steady.
The professionals came and the story goes on but that is the essence I wanted to share, so that we are reminded. You can come across a fellow human that needs you and you can be there for them. You will leave your car running and door open with wallet on the seat and you do not even think about being vulnerable to theft until the police ask Whose white car is that. You can physically reach out and touch someone and be within inches of his or her face for 20 minutes having never met him or her before. It will feel so meaningful. It will feel so important. It will warm you up. You will drive extra hours because this delay will put you into commuting traffic in Waterbury Ct, and then Hartford Ct, and then the Mass Pike. This 40 min delay will make the trip almost 3 hours longer. You will feel it is worthwhile because you were able to be the best comfort for another. You will drive with the faint scent of whatever Jay used on his face that morning on your hands and you won’t care, it smells nice, your hands don't feel dirty. You will think about him and wonder how he made out and hope his daughter who is a nurse was at work and was right there by his side when he arrived and hope that his wife was calm when someone called her.
We are all so very connected and we are all so much more the same than we are different. And it does not take much at all for us to reach out and love things in our world. And when we do it; for a person, for an animal, or for the earthworm that is wiggling on the sidewalk when the suns rays hit… we add an energy to the world and ourselves that is one of the best feelings we can feel. Try it any time you get the chance.