Not Waving But Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,  
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought  
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,  
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always  
(Still the dead one lay moaning)  
I was much too far out all my life  
And not waving but drowning.

I love this poem by Stevie Smith so much and I find it so moving. For me it makes clear how important it is to be attentive and open to your fellow human beings. How important it is to listen. How important it is to take care of each other. So that we don’t overhear quiet cries for help and end up mistaking drowning for waving. Many people have learned to wear masks so that people don’t see how far out and lost they feel. Masks that show smiles and strength so that no one sees the battles being fought lonely behind the mask. And many battles are often so much more exhausting in this stressful time of the pandemic and all its consequences.

It is so important to create a open, friendly and supportive environment where people dare to take off their masks and feel save to talk about their fears, problems and dark thoughts. So that they can realise that they are not as far out and alone as their mind would like to make them believe. That they are loved and valued as a person and not for their mask, that they can find support if they let others get close to them and dare to open up.

If you are struggling a lot yourself at this moment, get in touch with people close to you or with the many opportunities to get help, whether in person, online or by phone. Here you can find a list of international help lines, like the Telefonseelsorge in Germany (0800 1110111 or 0800 1110222). You are worth it and your presence matters.