With all the wisdom I like to think I have acquired throughout the ages, I often wish I could go back to being an innocent kid who did not know how the world truly works.
Whenever I heard someone list a “friend” as an emergency contact, I would raise my eyebrow. “Do they not have a parent/ spouse/ kid to fill that role?” I wondered. The writer in me would come up with all sorts of stories, which would usually be quite tragic and involve plenty of death or infertility. As an adult, I found that the answer to that question can be more complicated than previously imagined. First of all, there are plenty of people who have “significant others” that they are not married to. Last time I checked, the available options did not include “boyfriend/ girlfriend,” or “partner.” Everything that is not under family goes under the umbrella of “friend.” Admittedly, I have used family members for as long as I could as emergency contacts just because I did not want to list a “friend.” Not having a family member listed sounded sad to me. Everyone has to have a family, right? Well…
Then came a day when I heard someone list their neighbor as an emergency contact. I remember my shock. “Maybe they are good friends with the neighbors,” I thought and ultimately shrugged my worry off. I wondered if they were neighbors first and then became friends or maybe were friends first and decided to move in next door to each other. That would even be touching. I have not in a community where neighbors are friends in a while. Does something like that even exist?
As you probably predicted, my world shattered when someone insisted they did not have ANY emergency contact to list. “How can that be?” It made me wonder how badly these people must have messed up not to have anyone nearby. “How sad,” I thought. However, I quickly realized that it goes both ways and maybe they were alone because they cut ties with some toxic people. You never know what circumstances surround others.
In recent times, I have been reminded of people who have no one to use as their emergency contact. It fills me with a lot of sadness. We all need someone to be able to lean on in times of crisis. Unfortunately, there are many people who do not have that privilege. Sometimes, it is a result of the fault of their own, while other times they are just victims of circumstance.
Can you imagine being alone at your house and not having someone to call for help? Of course, no matter what, you should call 911 before you call anyone else if you are having an emergency. The doctors will take care of you whether you have someone to call or not. But what happens when they are ready to discharge you? Especially after surgery? They prefer for you to have someone come pick you up because they do not want you to get into any sort of trouble while you are most vulnerable. It can feel humiliating to have to say, for the third time, “No, there is no one that can pick me up. I will just take a cab.”
People say that once we are dead, nothing else should matter to us, but do you really want to be found deceased on the floor after your neighbors call the authorities? Weeks after you have passed? Because of the unholy smell coming from your place? I am not alright with that scenario. Humans die every day and I am aware of it. However, a pandemic made me think about such morbid scenarios a bit more.
Today, I urge you not to judge individuals based on the people around them. Sometimes it is not their fault that life turned out the way it did. Things happen whether we like it or not. There is only so much that we can do to control our surroundings.
Also, if you know of someone who might be alone in the world, reach out to them. Delicately. See if maybe they could use a friend. Even if it is just for emergencies. After all, those are life and death situations and that is when we truly get to know who our friends are.
If you are someone who is facing this world on their own, do not lose your faith. Your person will come along sooner or later. If you do not believe in that, or if you are worried that might not happen soon enough, I encourage you to reach out to the people you interact with regularly. Chat with your neighbor some more. Maybe grab a bottle of some good whiskey or bake a cake and knock on their door one evening. Grill some hotdogs and invite them over. Befriend someone from your book club or work, even if you prefer to treat it as a business transaction. It might sound weird to you, but I have heard of stranger things. Please be open and honest with the other person, though. Both parties should know what the expectations would be.
“Would you mind being my emergency contact?” It is that simple. I would never turn anyone down who asked me that.
Do you have a family member as your emergency contact or a “friend (or no one)?”
Has it always been easy for you to come up with a name for your emergency contact list?
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