Just Checking In

Jimmy Miller surfing a right hander

“On social media, Elmo – yes, the red fuzzy Sesame Street character – posed a question to his followers, with nothing but good intent. “Elmo is just checking in! How is everybody doing?” the X page for Elmo posted. A barrage of responses – tens of thousands of them – were brutally honest and downright cynical about the dread people are feeling.

“I’m at my lowest. Thanks for asking,” one person replied.

“Elmo I’m depressed and broke,” another wrote.

“Elmo I’m suffering from existential dread over here,” another replied.

“Elmo get outta here it isn’t safe,” one person warned.

About 20 hours into the barrage of comments, Elmo’s account tweeted: “Wow! Elmo is glad he asked! Elmo learned that it is important to ask a friend how they are doing. Elmo will check in again soon, friends! Elmo loves you. #EmotionalWellBeing”

When I read the above (courtesy of the CBS website) on the last day of January, & when I followed up in the days after, I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. I reposted Elmo’s tweet on my Instagram & Facebook, & it was amazing how many people replied. It touched an “Emotional Well Being” response from everyone.

“How are you doing?” has been a loaded question for me since we lost Jimmy. On any given day, even now, almost twenty years have passed and I still have to stop and pause… to think about it. It IS important to ask your friends this question, and then be prepared to listen to the response. However, I have learned from experience, that if you reverse the order of those statements to “Just Checking In,” and then wait to hear what someone says, it eliminates their need to give you an answer if they are having a particularly bad moment. Let the silence guide you as to the next part of Elmo’s sentiment, “How are you doing?”

On the day Elmo posed his question, I was feeling pretty good. We were heading into my birthday month, and fun stuff was planned. I had finally recovered from the pesky bronchitis that plagued me during the holiday and was back to my walking and pilates. We were ready to finish the design for the new JMMF van and planning the most ambitious schedule in our almost 20 year history. But yet….I totally identified with the response to Elmo that said, “I’m suffering from existential dread over here.”

Everyplace we look, we see and hear derision and despair for our country, state, city and the whole world. Politics and social issues divide us so deeply. We are barraged by ads about disease and aging. Even looking at the word disease you see a “dis” to the state of “ease.” During COVID, I wrote about feeling “sensory deprivation,” from the lack of hugs. These days, it’s a different sensation. My heart hurts for those in the middle of the battle zones; innocents, who by the place they live, have been condemned to violence.

Jimmy Miller  surfing

BUT YET, as I sit and write this to you, I look outside and see the two ducks who have come back to the pool after 3 years, to hopefully start a new family of ducklings. My own family is healthy and we shared birthday love together. Our JMMF family is growing with new members to our beach team and therapy team. I’ve experienced kindness at the check-out at “Fancy Acres,” and received some unexpected gifts in the form of meaningful notes from some of the people who have been intimately involved since the formation of JMMF. One note from a Marine who was in our very first group at Camp Pendleton said, “I’m grateful for every day and I hope y’all know you played a big part in that. I see all the time how Jimmy’s legacy helps folks and your efforts are the engine of healing. On behalf of all of us alumni of JMMF, happy valentines, thank you and much love.”

Friends, we are the engine of healing. Through surfing and all the gifts it brings to us, through the ocean and it’s transformative power, though the fellowship of shared experiences, and the thrill of being in the moment and meeting each other, exactly where we are at, we continue to share our mission. We are healing ourselves and others, one wave at a time.

Just like Elmo, I will keep checking in on you. It’s important to ask friends, “how are you doing?” And most importantly, like Elmo, Nancy loves you! Please feel free to post how you are doing on our instagram, because we really care.

Oceans of love and gratitude for this moment in time.


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Just Checking In

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