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Credit: Chase Sutton

In November, a friend of mine reached out to me over Facebook Messenger. We had never really gotten to know each other very well since then, and this was our first online conversation.

“Hey, you doing okay?” He wrote.

He had seen me earlier that morning, and decided to check up on me. I shot a text back telling him about what I was going through, and we went back and forth talking about it. I distinctly remember this experience because of the feeling of initial surprise, and then reassuring comfort.

Midterm season makes it easy for us to focus on ourselves. As we hole up in Van Pelt with an overflow of books, papers, and study guides, we get tunnel vision on our own stories. How much work and studying we have to do, and how exhausted we are. We wrap ourselves up in our own personal struggles while overlooking everyone else’s.

But there must be someone you can think of who is going through a tough time. It might be related to midterm season, or it might be for other personal reasons. Maybe you have noticed it in passing, or seen it consistently. We all should be reaching out to that person. It doesn’t have to be large and overly sentimental. It is more than enough to be noticing their hardships and checking in on them.

Doing this is a way to make more meaningful relationships and to help us not overlook our friends. How many times has the last thing we’ve said to a friend been: "let's meet up sometime!"

And then suddenly it becomes two or three months since we’ve talked to that person. It’s not that we didn’t care about them or like them per say, it’s just that it’s difficult to maintain meaningful relationships all at once. I say this not only to argue that we too often forget about the people we care about, but also to say that it is highly likely that there exists at least one person who could really use our support.

Reaching out to a friend is not an act that is exclusive to those who are extra caring or kind. It’s not an act only for a certain type of loving personality. And it’s not an act for only “close” relationships. It is how we should act as friends. How many times have we noticed someone else’s hardships but not helped them? It might be because we don’t want to seem overbearing, or we don’t know the person well enough. But in reality, the help that it could provide outweighs the fear of it sounding intrusive. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t close, or aren’t the type to share personal details, what matters is that someone is in need of support.

In the past, I’ve failed to do this. I have tried to justify it by saying that I’m just not that type of person, that I didn’t want to sound sappy, or that I don’t want to assume that someone else is having a hard time. But people have reached out to me, so who am I not to pay it forward?

If you’re unsure of what to say, you can start by just asking how that person is doing. It doesn’t need to be a heartfelt conversation and the person doesn’t even need to open up about anything. Most importantly, it’s about offering your time to someone else, and letting them know that you are thinking of them. It is such a small act on our part that can come with a large reward.

The point is practical: Everyone knows someone who is in need of help. Rather than waiting for someone else to step up to it, act upon it yourself. Think of them right now. Reach out to them.

JOEL LEE is a College sophomore from Groton, Conn. His email address is joelslee@sas.upenn.edu.

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