Air Empathy

I thought I would use my flagship OP entry to repost this poem blogged by a friend who (also) works with grieving children:

Air Empathy

On the red-eye from Seattle, a two year-old
in the seat behind me screeches

his little guts out. Instead of dreaming
of stuffing a wad of duct tape

into his mouth, I envy him, how he lets
his pain hang out. I wish I too could drill

a pipeline into the fields of ache, tap
a howl. How long would I need to sob

before the lady beside me dropped
her fashion rag, dipped a palm

into the puddle of me? How many
squeals before another passenger

joined in? Soon the stewardess hunched
over the drink cart, the pilot gushing

into the controls, the entire plane, an arrow
of grief, quivering through the sky.
~jeffrey mcdaniel

This piece reminds me so much of a conversation I had with a priest on a transatlantic plane once, about how often those most disgruntled by crying children often seem to wish they could throw a tantrum themselves. How cathartic it could feel to shake your fists and scream “I’m uncomfortable and hot and queasy and scared too!! I hate flying!!!”

How often does this happen in our daily lives? How often when someone openly shares their struggle, anger, sadness are we overcome with our own feelings of the same? “You think you’re _____? You have no idea how ____ I am!”. When our own needs aren’t being met, how often do we fear being further burdened by someone else’s emotional baggage? Sometimes resentful or envious that they are taking time and space and energy to make “a cry for help”.

If there is one goal I believe we share on the crisis lines, and in the line of work we do, it is to de-stigmatize that “cry for help”. When we encourage individuals to reach out (to family, to friends, to professionals), our goal is to not only provide resources for our callers but also honor their bravery in seeking what they need.

Calling the YouthLine is sometimes one of the very first ways a young person reaches out into the world of caring for their own mental health. We strive to be a warm, bright doorway into the world of outside support. As we work here to increase our call volume on the line, to share our posters and cards, our number and web address, I think about the joy and excitement my YouthLine volunteers have when a call initially rings. If we could scream “CALL THE YOUTHLINE!” into every high school across the state, we would.


Call for help. We’re here. Sky-rocking with you through this crazy, overwhelming, confusing world. We’re in this boat, on this plane, together.



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