Reaching Out To Help, Even When It’s Not Comfortable

Recently CBS News had a particularly thought-provoking story, and I’ve included the video here for you to see. There’s a short commercial at the beginning, but it is short.

Three years ago members of a gym in Nashville, Tennessee, began to talk among themselves about the slowly disappearing body of another member, a college student named Lauren, who was fast turning into skin and bones in front of them. In secret they tracked down Lauren’s parents, who confirmed that she had been suffering from anorexia since age ten and had been in and out of treatment without success.

What would you do at this point? Tell yourself, hey, she’s had professional help, so what do I know? Or gosh, this really is none of my business. Or how about this? It’s up to somebody else to help her, somebody who knows her better. Surely there must be somebody like that.

These strangers, bound only by a gym membership, chose not to do any of those things. Instead they staged an intervention in the parking lot and drove Lauren straight to the place she did not want to go, the hospital. Lauren protested, but they stood firm. They told her she needed to have her vital signs checked.

What shall we call them at this point? Kidnappers? Busybodies? I prefer “Villagers,” because they strangers, despite being strangers, truly believed that “It takes a village.”  The Villagers knew that if they didn’t act, they would probably never see Lauren again. None of them wanted to live with that possibility. And so they chose action over fear of consequences. Those chose to violate Lauren’s privacy and save her life.

Today Lauren herself, on the road to recovery, says that if they hadn’t acted, she would not be giving the CBS interview. Soon after she arrived at the Vanderbilt Medical Center her heart came close to failing. Lauren went into treatment again, this time successfully.

Three years have passed. Lauren has gained an additional thirty-six pounds, and she thinks about her life in a very different way.  She’s just finished her doctorate in occupational therapy, and she plans to work with others suffering from eating disorders.

The story raises so many questions about how we help, when we help, and when it becomes necessary to move out of our comfort zone and act. I’m still pondering my own answers.

Have you reached out when you knew you weren’t wanted?  When do we back off, and when do we move forward, no matter what?

Not only is Lauren’s story something to contemplate personally, I’ll be thinking about it in relation to my Goddesses Anonymous novels.

I hope you’ll think about it, too, and share your thoughts and experiences with us.


  1. Martha O'Quinn on May 20, 2014 at 9:24 am

    I love your books because I feel as though you are writing for me, personally. The Goddesses location; Happiness Key location, to mention a couple of reasons. I also feel a kinship to you through Diane Chamberlain. I have lived in Raleigh and am now in Western NC. Have a blessed summer in NY.

    • Emilie Richards on May 20, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      You live in a lovely area, Martha. Enjoy your summer there, and thanks for the lovely comment.

  2. Lynn Ross on May 20, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    This was really thought provoking, Emilie. I too am pondering my own answers. I have always been eager to help other people. I’m not sure I would have been a leader at this point, but I think I would have followed this group in helping Lauren. I don’t mind leading, but I’m a great respecter of people’s privacy. I think it’s a wonderful story. I’m so glad it had a happy ending.

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