By Kelly Corbett
Dear Signal readers, how do you thank someone who has helped you through a rough patch in your life?
Students gathered in the Library Auditorium for the Dear Helper Monologues on Monday, Oct. 17, for a night dedicated to saying thanks to all those special helpers in our lives.
The event, hosted by the TCNJ Student Alliance to Facilitate Empathy (SAFE), gave students the opportunity to read anonymous letters aloud that they have written to people who helped them in the past.
The first to give thanks was senior English major Zoe Schiff, whose helper wasn’t a close friend or family member, but someone she randomly met on the train to work over the summer.
“This person changed my life,” Schiff said. “It was one of those life-changing summers that people always post about on Instagram.”
At the time, Schiff had just taken a new job caring for children with special needs, but working with them proved to be a challenge. Schiff thought the special needs kids were in a tough environment, where they couldn’t just be kids. She wanted to help, but felt stressed and uneasy at work.
Every day on the train to and from work, Schiff confided in her helper, a man who she estimates to be in his 40s. He listened to her, gave advice and helped Schiff make the most of her job.
Schiff said their relationship was a real friendship. She even cried on her last day of work when he got off the train.
“He made such an impact on my life and because of him, I now bring that energy to my relationships,” Schiff said.
Sophomore technology education major Anna Chervinsky took to the stage next to thank her helper.
Chervinsky’s helper, who she said is a couple years older, always had her back, even when it came to those behind-the-scenes moments in life.
“You’ve inspired me to be so much better than my average self,” Chervinsky said.
Next, senior communication studies major Kayla Lafi described how her helper made her feel at home after a rough patch she went through last winter break.
Lafi had recently transferred to the College, had just broken up with her boyfriend after discovering he cheated on her and was diagnosed with Stage I cancer. Depression quickly took over and Lafi felt alone.
“Blinking, breathing and speaking took a lot of effort. I thought I was ready to give up,” Lafi said. “But then, spring recruitment came along.”
Lafi found herself at home with the sisters of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority.
“I never met a group of girls with such open hearts,” Lafi said. “Now, I realize I am valued and I belong.”
Last to share their story was freshman interactive multimedia major Robin Friedman. In his letter, Friedman thanked someone who helped him realize that he didn’t have to suppress his emotions any longer and could finally value himself.
Friedman explained that he never liked to cry — the thought of tears, snot and ugly face contortions kept Friedman from letting go in times of need.
“You taught me it is OK to cry and listen to my feelings,” Friedman said. “I could finally imagine more than literally a few weeks ahead.”
Besides emotionally freeing him, the helper inspired a newfound self-confidence in Friedman.
The monologues ended with an open-mic, during which some of the TCNJ SAFE executive board members gave thanks to their own special helpers.
TCNJ SAFE, a non-directive support network, creates and provides an environment of empathy for students by conducting supportive group meetings.
While the organization is student-run and members are not trained to give advice or diagnose one another, TCNJ SAFE invites students to share their experiences with their fellow peers in their meetings and at campus events like the Dear Helper Monologues.