Like so many comedians, Chris Gethard — host of The Chris Gethard Show — has struggled with anxiety and depression. He's spoken openly about these issues in the past, which prompted one anonymous fan to ask him a question about feeling suicidal:
I'm curious if you ever had suicidal thoughts. I admire you and your show and have just been in a really bad place lately. I used to see your show as the last thing I had to look forward to but I haven't even been back for months and can't even bring myself out the door to get there without panicking. I'd appreciate any advice really.
Gethard's response is lengthy by most standards — as a Tumblr post, it's epic. But more importantly, it's thoughtful and sincere, exactly the opposite of 95 percent of interactions between strangers on the internet.
It's so open and personal — both to Gethard and to the anonymous fan (despite remaining anonymous) — that Gethard writes about his hesitation to post the response publicly. Consequently, he might not appreciate any extra attention this post brings to his, but his words are worth sharing.
Condensing Gethard's post into a couple short paragraphs would be impossible, so here's one bit that resonated with me:
I care about you very deeply, me personally, I care about you. And I don't even know who you are. You sent your message in anonymously and I can't presume to know who sent it. But you are a person and you're in a lot of pain and you need help, and as another human who has been in at least similar pain, I want you to know — I care so much about you. If it turns out that you're already one of my best friends in the world, I care about you. If you're someone I've literally never interacted with in any way before this, I care about you. You are a person and you're in pain and that makes me care. That makes a lot of people care. I would stop on the street if I saw someone crying. I'd ask if they're ok. Tons of people would. And even though it doesn't seem like it right now, there are tons of people like that in your life and who you might randomly come across who would genuinely care and and want to stop and help and make sure you get through this, and make sure you get the help you need. I promise you. There's so, so, so many people you might come across — from your own sister to total strangers — who would be willing to do their part and listen to you just because it's the right and kind thing to do. Because you deserve that kindness.
But the excerpt above struck me because it highlights one of the internet's greatest attributes, the ability to provide a sense of shared community to those who might not feel it otherwise. Anonymity online can be an ugly thing, so it's especially validating to see the flip side of that — one person reaching out to another for help, and that person taking the time and energy to respond, without knowing whom he's speaking to.
It may seem trite, but there's still something heartwarming about basic human kindness online. Because it's really not all "kill yourself" comments and "die in a fire" emails: there are anonymous people willing to be decent and helpful to one another.
And sure, ideally the kindness of e-strangers wouldn't be such a pleasant surprise. But this is the internet, so let's be grateful for a couple feel-good stories a day.