The question caught the Duchess of Sussex off guard. She paused in her response to the question posed by reporter Tom Bradby in the fall of 2019. In the video of the interview (watch the clip here, at the bottom of this link): https://www.newsweek.com/watch-meghan-markle-are-you-ok-interview-miscarriage-essay-1550133) she seems to be searching his face and perhaps asking herself, “Does he really want to know?” “Is it safe for me to answer honestly?” The reporter waited patiently. When she admitted that life as a newlywed to a prince and then as a new mother had been challenging, he asked once again, “Are you okay?” That question stayed with Meghan Markle. Less than a year later she would remember those words as she lay in hospital after a miscarriage. She wrote about her devastating loss in a November 25, 2020 article in the New York Times. She penned, “Sitting in a hospital bed, watching my husband’s heartbreak as he tried to hold the shattered pieces of mine, I realized that the only way to begin to heal is to first ask, ‘Are you OK?'”
That simple short question helped her through a crisis.
We need to keep asking people if they are okay to get them through our present crisis.
The isolation and losses caused by this pandemic have taken a toll on the mental health of Canadians. People are complaining of not being able to sleep1, of feeling exhausted, fearful and anxious. The consumption of alcohol2 has increased since the pandemic began. Therapists and divorce lawyers report that marriages are breaking down3 . Domestic abuse is on the rise.4
People are not okay.
I must admit that I have not been asking people how they are doing as much as I used to. I limit my interactions when I am out. I try not to linger when I am in the grocery store or running errands. It is so frustrating to try to carry on a conversation with a mask on that I often don’t even try. Half the time I don’t even recognize people behind their masks!
But people are not okay and THAT is not okay.
Things need to change. I need to change. I’ve decided that I will try harder to check on how people are doing. Masks and keeping our social distance certainly make it more challenging but not impossible. There are several things I am going to do differently this year. Perhaps these ideas will inspire you to think differently about your interactions with people.
- If I see someone who I think I know but I‘m not sure, I’m going to speak to them anyway.
- If people don’t immediately recognize me when I speak to them, I will identify myself so they don’t have to guess who is behind the mask.
- If its too difficult to communicate with masks on, I will suggest we continue the conversation on the phone and agree on a time to do so.
These ideas work for people I see in my community but what about those people who live far away? I’m going to call people I sent Christmas cards to in 2020. Am I the only one who has people on my Christmas card list I communicate with only once a year? Its no wonder people are not okay!
Some days I’m the person who is not okay. I usually consider myself quite stable emotionally and spiritually but I have been surprised by how often my mind swings from thinking “this is no big deal” to “when will this ever end?” to “I hate this virus!” I have less stress than many of you who are reading this. I’m not facing a family or financial crisis. I’m not trying to keep kids safe at school. I don’t have loved ones in a nursing home I cannot visit, and I haven’t personally lost anyone to COVID. In spite of all that, there are some days when I admit that I am not okay.
On those days I talk to myself. I’m encouraged by the Psalmist who often had to talk to address himself and set things right. For example, in Psalms 42 and 43, the Psalmist three times writes, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Ps 42:5,11; 43:5). Besides reminding myself of timeless scriptural truths and prayer, I know the things I can do to get my spirit back on track, like exercising, listening to favorite music or calling a friend.
Are you okay? Do you have a pandemic action list? If not, take some time to make that list. If you go several days knowing you are not okay then make an appointment with your doctor, minister or with a counsellor. Also, there are resources online such as the government of Canada website that has tips, resources and helpline numbers (https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/mental-health.html#_Tips_for_taking).
We all need to work together to make sure people are okay.
After answering the reporter’s question, Meghan thanked him for asking. She then added, “Not many people have asked if I’m OK”.
Let’s determine as we begin a new year that fewer of our family members, friends and acquaintances will say that not many people have asked if they are okay. May we be faithful in carrying each other’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)
Dear God, help us to care for one another as this pandemic continues to keep people isolated and fearful. Give us wisdom and strength to care for ourselves and others, recognizing our need to stay close to you. We are grateful for the power of your Word to encourage and sustain us and the presence of your Holy Spirit to guide us. Remind us often to ask if people are okay and to take the time to listen. Thank you for listening to us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
1. Night of the insomniacs: How COVID has turned us into a country of non-sleepers – https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-night-of-the-insomniacs-how-covid-has-turned-us-into-a-country-of-non/
By ELIZABETH RENZETTI Special to The Globe and Mail, published November 28, 2020 UPDATED December 4, 2020
2. People are drinking more during the pandemic — including parents
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/people-are-drinking-more-during-the-pandemic-including-parents-1.5810488, by Amy Bell · CBC News · Posted: Nov 21, 2020 9:00 AM PT
3. Pandemic ‘pressure cooker’ is driving more couples to seek advice about separation, divorce
By Perlita Stroh · CBC News · Posted: Nov 18, 2020 4:00 AM ET | Last Updated: November 18
4. ‘Perfect storm’: Growing calls to address domestic violence during coronavirus https://globalnews.ca/news/7483974/coronavirus-domestic-violence-covid-19/
By Saba Aziz Global News Posted November 25, 2020 5:16 pm
Rev. Shirley DeMerchant, a former president of the board of the Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada lives in Woodstock, NB.