We recently returned from a trip to Turkey with a tour group. During the orientation our Turkish guide introduced the novel (to me) concept of a ``buddy check.” (At first I thought he had said ``body check” but I understand that’s something else altogether.)
He suggested that each person find a ``buddy” among the group, someone who was not one’s spouse or traveling companion. The main reason for this arrangement was to ensure that none of us be left behind each time we came back to the bus or boat after sightseeing, eating, bathroom breaks and photo-ops (as well as some obligatory shopping). A married couple might be overlooked, but the buddies would probably not go missing at the same time. It made his head counts that much easier.
As it turned out this practical arrangement had a bonus, because it worked to enhance a special feeling toward one’s buddy. My buddy was a retired orthopedic doctor from Washington State in his 70s. He and his wife joined the tour to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Each time we were told to check the presence of our respective buddy, a tiny bit more amount of bonding naturally happened.
This led to heightened interest in that person. We ended up having more meals with this lovely sweet couple as a result of the initial buddy assignment. I wrote to them on Sept. 29, their actual wedding anniversary, to congratulate their long and successful marriage and to wish them continued happiness and good health for their remaining life together.
This got me thinking about general concept of ``buddy check”. I realized that I have been practicing this method without having a name for it. My almost daily check with our two daughters in Washington, DC, frequent talks with an elementary school classmate in New York, and a weekly call to my two prayer partners through text messages, emails and phone calls belong to this category. In a way, checking my Hong Kong friends’ comings and goings via Facebook is a buddy check of sorts.
Inspired by the success we saw on the Turkey tour, I persuaded our pastoral care ministry team at our Miami Korean Church to apply this buddy check system. We made a list of sixteen recently joined members and assigned an old member to each one. They understand that they need to be in touch with the individuals assigned to them regularly, have an occasional meal, check whether they are attending the Sunday worship and if not, follow up with calls and emails.
I am exploring more meaningful ways to be a good buddy to my charge: I pray for her every day and call her to pray together and send a spiritual piece at least once a week to strengthen her walk with God. And from time to time we have a meal together to have more leisurely time to get to know each other and find out what prayer concerns and praise items we can share.
Now that I know the term, to my surprise I’ve found that mountain climbers and divers also use a buddy check system. This enhances safety by becoming extra eyes and ears to make sure not one safety measure on the check-list is overlooked. Even while climbing a mountain or deep sea diving, the buddy will look out for the other constantly. What a marvelous idea!
In the course of exploring this I came across an elaborate check-list that the National Association of Underwater Instructors uses for practical purpose. The acronym SEABAG is a reminder to two buddies to address all pre-dive preparations.
S ― Site: is the chosen site diveable under the prevailing weather and tidal conditions?
E ― Emergency: what are the established emergency procedures?
A ― Activities: are there any special risks or concerns that must be addressed?
B ― Buoyancy: check buoyancy control devices including environmental suits and equipment.
A ― Air: both buddies check each other’s first and second stages, confirm the locations of their octopuses (!), and proof check by breathing from each other’s equipment.
G ― Gear: check your gear! Then go.
I wonder where else we can apply this buddy check system. Between mothers-in law and daughters-in-law? In the chambers of the House and Senate? In a classroom? In an apartment association? In a factory? The application possibility is limitless. The desired end result of having a buddy to check is deepening affection and interest for your own buddy.
In a constantly self-seeking, self-focused and self-interest promoting society, this buddy check practice will instill in us the awareness of others and cultivate the habit of checking for others’ comfort, well-being and safety.
Oprah Winfrey said, ``Every one of us gets through the tough times because somebody is there, standing in the gap to close it for us.” In a way, the buddy check is a form of standing in the gap for others. There are too many cracks in our life that want to swallow us alive.
It is a great comfort to know that there is someone out there who is willing to make sure I don’t fall into a crack. Indeed no man is an island. We need our buddies.
Hyon O'Brien is a former reference librarian now living in the United States. She can be reached at email@example.com.