When someone needs you right now

My humble apologies for missing my regular post dates the past few weeks. In a string of one thing after another, a few health related-events have knocked me out a bit. I’ll start with one of them here.

We learned that a dear family friend (and our former neighbor in NY), died. We’re still trying to accept that Mr. Campbell is gone. He was one of those people I wished would live forever. Whenever I walked away after spending any length of time with him, I was uplifted. He was gentle, present, loving, kind, thoughtful, smart and funny. Our family loved him. We told Max about it. But he had already understood something. He could see we were sad that day we found out. So, we looked at pictures of them together, sitting on a log in our old neighborhood. We shared happy memories. How he let Max climb on his ladder, or how he let him pretend to ride his lawn tractor, or how he joined us (always happily) to explore the ground, collect pinecones, leaves, or rocks together. Thinking about Mr. Campbell made us grateful we knew him, and ever so sorry he’s gone.

Max & Mr. Campbell, April 2010

The next day, we went to the park to play with Max. It was a perfect fall day, and it was crowded. Max and Andy walked ahead of me, and upon entering the play area, I was met by a man carrying a child in his arms. “Call 9-1-1!” Please…my son…he fell on his back…His lips were blue…he wasn’t breathing…Please…” And he pointed over to the jungle gym structure, while tossing his phone at me,”Please!” His phone needed a password, but he couldn’t manage that. I pulled my phone out and dialed. The child, his son, age 6 started throwing up. He was breathing again, so that was good. Everything felt simultaneously like slow motion and full warp speed. The father was distraught and panicked.

The operator and I, and the man and his son were suddenly in a little bubble while someone else cleared passersby away from us. Andy took Max away, too. I comforted the dad as best I could. I kept the boy from moving because the operator had said, “keep him as still as possible.” When the police arrived, I left. Later, I watched him get wheeled out on a backboard, on a stretcher to the ambulance. He seemed so small lying there. We went home. But not before we stopped at the ice cream truck for Max.


The things that sweeten a day are often simple pleasures. Helping someone in need. Eating ice cream. Climbing on a tree log with a friend. When I am unsure of my purpose, or life feels overwhelming, these little things can make all the difference. There is only NOW.

Max and tree log

Max’s teacher gave us parents a handout about her class. In it she lists developmental milestones for kids ages 4-6, with one being “developing their sense of purpose.” And more. “Pressure from adults to “perform” can be a blocker, and actually reinforces what they don’t know as opposed to what they do know. Also that, “relaxed minds are open, receiving minds.”

How true! When I live one day at a time, accepting Max where he is, not where I want/think/feel he “should” be, things flow with greater ease and suddenly (in his own time) he takes giant leaps forward. Then I also can accept myself; what I can or cannot do. I don’t leap as much, but letting go of some unnecessary pressure to “perform” to someone else’s expectations–makes doing my job a bit easier.

Mr. Campbell was one of those grownups who hadn’t forgotten what it is like to be a child. He was that rare individual who accepted people where they were, without judgment. He was patient with Max. And he understood that spending time with a child could be loud, silly, frustrating, funny, surprising and profound all at once. Yes, he was also a good husband, father, and grandfather, neighbor and friend.

Max & Mr. Campbell

So, we’ve had some health situations here the past few weeks. I’ve been happy to take care of my family the way I’ve been able to.  It is good to be needed. And it is good that things are looking up, and I have some time to write again.

When someone like Mr. Campbell, who was a much-loved, good person, (and who was needed), leaves the world, maybe the only thing to do in response is to go be a needed person for someone else. And do it like he did, with a smile. And love.

Thank you, Mr. Campbell: for your beautiful smiling face, and for always reminding me what compassion looks like. When someone appears in front of you, crying—first, you listen. Then, you reach out and hug them. 

Stay well, everyone.

6 thoughts on “When someone needs you right now

  1. I always feel like stopping to smell the roses after reading anything you write. So nice to look forward to, whenever you can… Hope things are looking up and all are well!!

  2. Elana, I just took time out from a super frantic day to read your post, and now, I’m totally crying, and want to thank you for sharing thoughts so special and invoking those tender spots. So simple and profound, they ring so true. The photos are beautiful. Thank you and much love.

  3. What an amazing couple of weeks you’ve had, Elana. Thank you for the reminder to live in the present when life gets crazy!

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