Zach and I both love walking outside. When we are “walking” together, he rides in his stroller and I push him. We can go for miles looking at nature, talking about the trees, and listening to his Spotify playlist that ranges from artists like Ludacris, to Bill Withers and Rafi (ie “Baby Beluga” for curious minds.)

When very little, I pushed Zach in the running stroller and listened to my OWN playlist which is about as diverse as Zach’s, give or take a few “yoga piano” and other meditative selections. My ability to walk and to push Zach along has brought much peace and tranquility to both of us over the last 23 years.

But the walks are not always peaceful and tranquil. There are so many factors that can trump the experience of a great walk, such as too much heat, bugs and getting stung or just plain face-planting like Zach did after this one walk a while ago. This is not a common factor mercifully. But one lovely summer evening several years ago, Zach tried the face-plant. After a few miles of a walk, Zach and I returned up his steep driveway, hot and tired.

As I punched in the garage code to enter, Zach in his impatience and urgent determination was inspired to get out of his stroller without my help. It happened in just a split second. (I now know to keep a hand on his shoulder at all times) but as I was entering the numbers code, Zach got out of his stroller and subsequently landed face first into the brick décor which covers his house. We went from peace, to panic as I saw him look up, face, lips and teeth all covered with blood.

As was the case sometimes, Zach’s dad was traveling so he couldn’t help. As the garage door opened at the same time I realized Zach face-planted into the side of the garage, I stopped breathing and my mind RACED. Did Zach knock his teeth out? There was so much blood I couldn’t adequately assess his injuries. Did he knock part of his face off? Did we need to go to the emergency room? “I WISH HIS FATHER WAS HERE!”

And just then, knowing that Ernest was in another state and I needed to act quickly, I auto dialed my neighbor who was literally by my side from across the street in a manner of seconds. No questions asked, just immediate help from a friend who knows better than anyone, how to plug into crisis moments.

Once my “face-plant-friend” arrived, she helped me get Zach in the house, calm him down and get him cleaned up. There was a lot of blood from his gums and lips, but teeth and tongue seemed to be intact. There is so much vascularity in our mouths, the blood made it seem worse than it actually was. Not to say it wasn’t very traumatic for all of us, but with my friend’s help, calm demeanor and presence, we were able to care for him and avoid a big Emergency Room trip.

“Face-plant-friends” are rare, and invaluable. They are the ones we call when we are in trouble. They are the people that drop everything when we call. They don’t judge or narrate. They just plug in. They help stabilize crisis situations. They are the extra set of eyes and hands that gives us supernatural powers to get through something awful. Having a face-plant-friend is a true gift, and luxury. They are hard to come by.

The best way to grow a friendship with someone like this (ie “non-judgmental, present, calm and powerful”) is to BE one of those friends. Since most of us won’t ask for help (another chat altogether) unless the shit really hits the fan, when we do receive that call from someone to help, we want to act briskly, without asking questions, without stating the obvious and without overreacting.

Because the person calling for help is usually moving slowly and may be in shock, all the while narrating for themselves (think “I am a terrible mom! How did I let this happen?! I am the worst person ever!”)   They may even be over reacting to the situation. When we get the call to be a “face-plant-friend” for someone else, we show up and get to work. It doesn’t happen often (thankfully) but if we want friends like these, we need to first be friends like these.

One of the challenges in being the parent of a special needs child, is that in addition to all the fun adventures we find ourselves in, secondary to medical care (like unplanned trips to Children’s Hospital) there are also just these “typical” accidents and situations that stink but happen to everyone. Maybe I thought because Zach had a feeding tube, or endured multiple leg surgeries we had paid our dues, in terms of stressful kid stuff. But nope. We had to learn to get through those every day accidents too.

The best friend I can be, is one who can show up quickly, move appropriately and help make decisions. Since the caller (in my example it was me) is already swimming in terror and drowning from self-criticism, the most powerful way we can show up, is to do just that. Show up. Get there.  Quickly. Without judgment. Do for that person, what they cannot do for themselves in that moment of panic.

In fact, showing up in friendships, in real time, without judgment but with intense presence (either actually being there in person, or actually truly actively listening when the call comes) may be the most important facet of being a friend. After all, “Good Time Charlies” are a dime a dozen. And we all like to enjoy ourselves. But the true friendship pool becomes smaller, and tighter, if we use these criteria to define friendship.

Let’s be this type of friend. Let’s drop everything, when we learn our friend is hurting. Whether the pain is from a child face-planting into a brick house, or having to bury a child because their body failed, we can respond with the same attentiveness and care every time.

“Presence” is the true gift we can give and receive in moments of crisis (and in the aftermath.). Let’s give generously and look for a way to be present to someone today. Hopefully it’s not a face plant but whatever it is we want to answer the call. And in doing so, we not only lend support to others, but we build up own our reservoir of capable, loving hands, which will be there when WE need them.

And make no mistake. We WILL need them

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