You might be the only one.
It was the final sixty seconds of class. After nearly an hour of high-intensity cycling, it was time to slow down and cool off. I pulled a towel across my soaking face and chest. The instructor — a guy named Will — dimmed the lights.
Normally, at this point in the class, the instructor says, “Thanks for coming” or “Great job, everyone.” But not that day. That day, Will told us a story.
Will told us about his friend down in Florida. She was directly in the path of Hurricane Irma. For several days, Will had been thinking about his friend, worrying about her, wondering, “Should I reach out to see if she’s OK?”
Eventually he decided to do it. He texted his friend to check in, just to say, “You’re in my thoughts today. I hope you’re safe.”
Will’s friend got the text. She called back immediately.
“Thank you so much for reaching out to me,” she said, sobbing, her voice full of pain. “Actually, I’m not OK. We’re evacuating. We might lose our house. I’m so scared.”
And then she told Will, “You are the only person who has reached out to me. Thank you. It really means a lot, just to know someone cares.”
Will was stunned. Hundreds of friends on Facebook, on Instagram, in her smartphone… and yet nobody had reached out to this woman? Nobody checked in? Only him? He was the only one?
When difficult things happen — a hurricane, a shooting, a car accident on the side of the road, a friend’s cancer diagnosis — all too often, we think to ourselves, “Somebody else will call. Somebody else will help. Somebody else will send supplies / flowers / etc. Somebody else will fix this. Somebody else is handling this.”
But what if somebody’s not?
What if nobody has done anything?
In the final ten seconds of class, Will urged us to act.
“If you feel the instinct to reach out to someone, to help someone, don’t think about it, don’t say ‘I’ll do it later’,” he told us. “Please do it now.”
Because tomorrow might be too late.
And because you might be the only one.
After walking out of that class, I felt inspired to act, act, act, not wait. I put together a box of supplies (non-perishable food, toiletries) to help people affected by the hurricane and shipped it off. I texted my mom and dad to say, “I love you.” I wrote an email to a friend who’s been struggling, just to check in. I sent flowers to another friend who’s been dealing with soul-crushing stress lately. I made a donation to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — something I’ve been “meaning to get around to” for a long time. Literally, years.
Doing all of those things took a grand total of maybe sixty minutes. The length of a spin class. Basically, no time at all. With each package, text, or donation, I kept thinking to myself, “What if I’m the only one?”
The message that Will gave to me… that’s the same message I’m passing along to you.
If your heart is breaking, if you wish you could help, if your instincts tell you to “check in” or “just do something,” then do something. You don’t necessarily need to quit your job and become a full-time crisis hotline volunteer. You have other options. It can be as simple as texting a friend to say, “Hey. Are you doing OK?” That one text could change their entire day — or their entire life. Because that one text might be… the only one. The only signal of support. The only gesture of care and compassion in a terrifying world.
You might be the only one.
This is what I’ve learned to be true (even though I need continual reminders from people like Will): My actions matter more than I think. If I have sixty seconds to spare — while I wait for my coffee to brew, while I wait for my pasta water to boil, while I wait for a large file to download — then I have time to send love, help, and hope to another human being. Plenty of time. More than enough time. Even if it’s 11:59pm at night. Today is not over yet.