Reach Out and Touch Someone — Virtually

By Dr. Steve Chardos

There is much that could be shared about physical and emotional wellbeing during this pandemic.  And a lot of this type of information is readily available on TV and on the internet.

Dr. Steve Chardos is a retired psychologist and TVA retiree. He was well-known at TVA for the insightful and entertaining presentations he made to employees throughout the Tennessee Valley.

Dr. Steve Chardos is a retired psychologist and TVA retiree. He was well-known at TVA for the insightful and entertaining presentations he made to employees throughout the Tennessee Valley.

So I decided I wanted to share just one thought, one takeaway, one practical thing you can do about improving your health during this troubled time. 

Loneliness is a significant risk factor for several health conditions.  For folks such as retirees, this can be a challenge in the best of times, but it is even more so during this pandemic.

As I thought about the point I wanted to share, an old slogan popped into my head.  I could not remember where it came from.  So I looked it up.  Some of you may recall it immediately. The slogan is “Reach out and touch someone.”

What I found from my search was that this slogan was used by AT&T around 40 years ago to encourage folks to make long distance phone calls.

With all the social distancing now taking place, one of the most effective things we can do for others and for ourselves is to simply Reach Out and Touch Someone.

Since we currently cannot do that literally, we need to reach out virtually by email, text, FaceTime, Zoom, or, better yet, with what now is considered an old-fashioned method – with a phone call.  (Some might find FaceTime and Zooming a bit invasive.)

I suspect all of us, during a difficult time in our lives, have been on the receiving end of someone saying, “If you need anything, just give me a call.”

As sincere as that is meant by the person saying it, it usually is not followed up by the person receiving it.  When folks are really hurting, they tend not to make that call.  So I am encouraging you to reach out proactively and touch someone.

Think of those you used to work with or knew at TVA, and then just reach out to them.  Ask them how they are doing, share a little on how you are doing.  All of you, right now, if you took a few moments could think of people you know who would appreciate your reaching out to them.

And do not worry about what to say.  Remember, it is Contact over Content.

Imagine what it would be like if later today you received a call from someone you may not have heard from in a while.  Something like: “Hey Steve, I was just thinking about some folks I used to work with and wanted to see how you are doing with all this craziness.”  

It will not matter if no profound thoughts are shared.  It is the contact, not the content, that will be remembered and have the most impact and benefit.  Even a brief contact.

By this time in our lives, most of us have spent some time in a hospital.  I suspect you can remember folks coming by to visit with you.  You were likely to recall their visit fondly for the rest of that day and maybe even longer.

It is not as likely that you would have remembered what was said.  It was the contact, not the content, that was important.  Even a brief visit.

Most of you can remember the tornadoes that ripped through the TVA region back in 2011.  Tom Kilgore was TVA’s Chief Executive Officer then.  The day after the tornadoes, someone proposed to Tom that TVA publish a phone number for TVA folks impacted by the tornadoes to call if they needed help.

However, Tom said we should get a list of TVA people who we knew needed help and then have someone reach out to them individually to assess their needs.  What a terrific idea!  The impacted folks who were contacted were pleased that TVA had taken the initiative to reach out to them.

So in a similar vein I am encouraging you to consider taking the initiative to reach out and touch someone.

And, as an added benefit, those reaching out also receive health benefits for themselves.  So both the receiver of the call and the person making the call can benefit healthwise from the contact.

Therefore, again, the thought for today is “Reach out and touch someone” – a former TVA friend or co-worker or maybe another family member or friend.

Remember – the benefit is in the contact, not in the content.

September 2020