Just Be Around

By Amanda Tonoli

An old friend of mine had a baby last week and of course I was one of the people to show up, visit and hold that glorious bundle as we caught up on all we had missed over the last six months. She was once my best friend — we even lived together — but we had a falling out and things have never been the same over the years.

Earlier this semester, I wrote about another friend of mine whose sister died. Of course I showed up at her house to comfort her in her time of need, despite us not being super close anymore.

Reflecting on my reconnection with both of these friends over the last few months, I thought about why it took a major life event to make me realize how much these two people meant to me and how little the petty stuff we’ve been through means.

In “How the Stress of Disaster Brings People Together,” in the Scientific American, published in November of 2012, Emma Seppala describes circumstances of extreme stress draws people to go out of their way to help others and be with one another.

“This more positive and social response could help explain the human connection that happens during times of crises, a connection that may be responsible, at least in part, for our collective survival as a species,” Seppala said.

Both good and bad instances of stress bring people together to unite and be there for one another. The utter shock of something life-changing — a birth or a death — makes all other minor details of a long-standing relationship fall away, leaving only the importance of those directly and indirectly affected.

“Human beings are fundamentally social animals and it is the protective nature of our social relationships that has allowed our species to thrive,” Seppala said.

When we come together during times of need, we are helping others continue to survive. The death of a family member is devastating, and no matter what they say, no one really wants to be left all alone. The birth of a baby is a joyous event, but also scary. Suddenly you are responsible for another human being. Deep down, I am drawn to offer my support in either situation because everything after such an event is going to be different than life prior.

This behavior goes beyond just being a friend. Humans are born with an innate need to socialize with others. To some, it can even be considered a basic human need to survive.

“Decades of research shows that social connection is a fundamental human need linked to both psychological and physical health including a stronger immune system, faster recovery from disease and even longevity,” Seppala said.

Without people supporting one another throughout their lives, no matter how frequent or infrequent, humankind would struggle to exist. Everyone needs someone else, no matter how often or how much attention. The important thing to remember when you think you’re only around for times of struggle is that you’re around — and whoever you are around for appreciates it.