Each of us can have an immense influence on the self-care of those around us. We should always be cognizant of how we can help lift people up, allowing them to realize their true self-worth. Along the same lines, we should let others help us when we feel vulnerable.

By experiencing the power of a stranger’s kindness, I learned this lesson firsthand.

Dahlgren Chapel, usually empty, is an excellent place to emotionally combust. I have gone there many times to cry myself. A particular Wednesday afternoon, however, was different than all of my other times of distress in Dahlgren.

It was one of those all-too-familiar days when I felt absolutely unworthy of life and unworthy of love — a result of the clinical depression with which I have long struggled. I walked in, blessed myself with the holy water and genuflected in front of a row of chairs midway between the church entrance and the altar. Once I found my seat, I began sobbing uncontrollably. This time, though, I did not have the chapel all to myself.

“You’re in one of my classes, aren’t you?” the man asked as he approached me. He had been praying, but my obnoxious sniffling had presumably distracted him.

“Yeah?” I managed to get out while still crying. We had never spoken before.

“What’s wrong?”

Normally very guarded, I uncharacteristically opened up, explaining my despair to him in my vulnerable state. He sat down next to me.

“Tell me more.”

For some unexplainable reason, I did. Only when I finished speaking did I realize I had just dumped a plethora of heavy, personal information on this virtual stranger. I stared at him in disbelief.

Noticing my uneasiness, he stood up and outstretched his arms. I was reluctant to hug him. Though he seemed genuine and sweet,  I wasn’t sure if I was OK with hugging someone I barely knew. I did it anyway. My tears left a massive blotch on his gray shirt.

We sat back down, and then it was his turn to share. He was in the chapel because he had lost his father and was in constant pursuit of living a life that would make his father proud.

He assured me that I was not the only one at Georgetown struggling through a difficult time. There were at least two of us.

“Neither of us deserve this,” he added. I needed to hear that reminder.

Often, I fell into the trap of rationalizing my misery; I convinced myself my depression was somehow my own fault. Deep down, I knew this notion was untrue — for once, someone else not only believed that but even made me believe it.

I cried for a few more minutes as he sat next to me silently. He did not have to say anything. His presence alone comforted me.

We talked some more, and after another half hour or so, both of us were ready to leave. I expected that our relationship would not exist outside of the chapel doors, that, after we left, we would never speak to each other again. I was surprised when he took my phone number as he said goodbye and exited the chapel.

A few days later, I received a text from an unknown number: “Brittany, how are you? I hope you’re feeling better!” Though others knew I was struggling, the classmate I’d spoken to in the chapel was the only one who asked me how I was in the three weeks that followed.

None of the external circumstances in my life had changed. But now someone — someone who had absolutely no obligation — cared about my well-being. For once, I did not have to deal with all of the negativity that clouded my thoughts on my own.

Touched, I responded: “Better. I’m doing a little better.”

Each of us plays an active role in one another’s self-care. We should all strive to be as selfless and kind as my classmate in the chapel.

If we are willing to listen to other people’s stories, we could have a tremendous, positive effect on others. We could be the people who remind others that they are worthy of self-care and, if we’re lucky, that they are worthy of love.

Brittany Rios is a senior in the College. TRANSFERmations appears online every other Monday.

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