#COVID-19 · Nursing

Why America Cried At Steve Burns

I can’t be the only one who wiped at tears at the end of Steve from Blue’s Clues recent video that was posted to Twitter…? In every FB group I’m in from medical based, to illness based, to therapist based, to even a Harry Potter fans group….they erupted with Steve memes, with hearts linked to Steve’s video, and many many of my individual friends posted a tribute to Steve and his video.

Let’s break this down.

America literally lost its shit when a former childhood show star posted a vulnerable, truthful, completely unremarkable video.

It is quiet. He is soft spoken. There is no tension build-up. There is no comedy and no time when he is purposely trying to make us feel angry or sad or anything. So why? Why did an unremarkable video hit our hearts in a way that makes it completely remarkable?

I have some guesses and because I feel like I’m smart and Steve told me I look great I’m going to go a step further and say it’s an educated guess. Below is a rough quote of the video that I re-watched three times and typed while listening to it in order to get the words down.

“We were younger and we used to run around and find clues and do all the fun stuff…and we didn’t see each other for like a really long time. Can we just talk about that? (Pause) Great. I realize that was kind of abrupt. I just kind of got up and went to college. And that was really challenging by the way but great. Because I got to use my mind and take one step at a time. And now I’m doing many of the things I wanted to do. And then look at you, and look at all you have done, and all you have accomplished in all of that time. And it’s just so amazing. I mean we started out with clues and now it’s what? Now it’s what student loans and jobs and families. And some of it has been kind of hard. You know? I know you know. (Pause) And I wanted to tell you, I really could not have done all of that without your help…and in fact all the help that you helped me with when you were younger is still helping me today, and that’s super cool. I guess that I just wanted to say after all these years I never forgot you. Ever. And I’m super glad we are still friends. You look great by the way. Whatever it is your doing. It’s working.”

Reading the words does not have the same impact as watching the video. They fall somewhat flat with Steve’s vulnerable and honest voice and earnest eyes slicing through the horrible bouncy background music.

When I do therapy, as in when I am in the therapist chair, there are moments when I can see I hit the vulnerable spot in a client’s defensive armor. It’s in the moment when I say something that to me can feel like a shot in the dark but I know I hit it when their eyes well up as we maintain eye contact and they nod without speaking and I just named something that let them know, “I see you.”

Steve Burns literally just did that to every kid who grew up watching Blue’s Clues. Even if you hated the show. That two minute video he said, “I see you, and it’s hard, and you’re great.” In a way that we yearn for every day but often lack in receiving. Steve saw us. He let us know with sincerity that he sees us because he is us. He has student loans too. He went to college and gets to use his mind and do all the things every day he wanted to do. And he did it with us, for us, because of us. He says you helped me accomplish things and you still do and I’m grateful for you.

He called us friends still. And told us we look great.

Why did America lose it’s mind? Why did this bring tears to our eyes? Because we lack validation in our every day lives. Especially in the last year and a half. Our lives have been thrust into complete uncertainty. As a parent we don’t know if our children are safe anywhere. We don’t know if we are remote or in person for work, appointments, and school. We don’t know if we should go to the grocery store. We can’t see our families and our friends. We are isolated. Nothing feels right. Everything feels scary.

Steve came in and in two minutes let us know that he gets it. He gets that things are scary. But look at all we’ve done already. Look what we are capable of! Look! Because I am looking and I SEE YOU! Why is Steve Burns the first and only person who has been able to penetrate the “scary” of the last 18 months and provide validation, acceptance, and reassurance in ways that brought us all to tears?

Because he gave us what we yearn for. He gave us non-judgmental acceptance of our choices.

He gave us positive feedback.

He bolstered us to be able to keep moving forward with the same greatness with which we had arrived in the moment to watch his video. Why do we not get this validation from our jobs? Partners? Families? Friends? Some of us, probably do. Some of us have supportive and positive people surrounding us. But so many of us, clearly, are lacking in this area because it was painfully obvious we had not received any of this for a long time by our extra reactions to his video.

His voice was calming, unifying, and his message was of appreciation and hope. Hope. We all are craving the elusive ray of hope that crept out of his video. Are there other people who didn’t forget me? Do I really look great? Other people struggle with student loans too? He spoke directly to the viewer. It felt like sitting down with an old friend. He paused at the right time and the inflection in his voice was always to add calm not uncertainty. It was the least anxious two minute video I’ve ever seen. And if there is anything over the last 18 months it has been a steady influx of anxiety.

This is important because it shows what America lacks. Empathy, validation, and understanding from authority figures- employers, family, friends, etc. It’s important because it shouldn’t take one video to unravel us and that it did shows that we all need to be in therapy if we are not already because we are all raw, so raw. You cried because your emotions are bubbling so close to the surface it took one person to say- I see you. Your feelings are valid. I’ve felt them too. I see you.- to have you in tears. He did that therapy move that I do. He took a shot in the dark to say what we all needed to hear and he landed acutely on our weak spot in our defenses.

Why did we cry? Because we felt seen. Because we felt connected in a time of isolation. Because an old friend greeted us warmly without judgement and told us we are good enough as we are and that he is proud of us. It seems so simple yet we cannot find this validation, connections, and positive reinforcement in our every day life. We cried because we needed to cry; we needed a release valve.

I am grateful to Steve for his video. I am grateful it brought catharsis and relief to so many people. I am saddened that so much of America feels unseen. I can tell you as a healthcare provider and as a mental health provider for many other healthcare providers the most important unvalidated person walking America is the healthcare worker. We are tired. We are dying- from suicide, substance use, and damnit from COVID. We are sick of the horrific deaths. We are sick of the ignorance. We are burned out in a way that no one else outside of healthcare can even begin to comprehend. It’s making us resent the patients. It’s making ICU nurses refuse to turn their unconscious unvaccinated COVID vented patients, leading to more pressure ulcers, more black eyes from being prone and not having their cheeks turned. It’s making the fifteen respiratory therapists who can do ECMO in one hospital system think about quitting. All 15. If all 15 quit ECMO can’t function. I don’t think Americans grasp the devastating consequences COVID-19’s ongoing toll it taking on our healthcare workers. We are going to lose them all. There will be none left to care for us if we don’t get our shit together.

Get your shit together America. That moment that made you feel tears when Steve Burns breached your defenses…make healthcare workers feel that moment. Make them know that you see them. That you hear them. Get the freaking vaccine. Wear freaking masks. Stop saying science isn’t real. Because science doesn’t give a shit when you are drowning in the fluid in your unvaccinated lungs. Your going to die regardless.

This is a plea. One human to another. Think. Feel. Change. Because if you don’t we are looking at devastating consequences for our healthcare workers.

To my nurses I see you. I am you. I feel you. I understand if you leave. I truly do. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the blood, sweat, tears you’ve already given. I can’t ask you to give more than you’ve given. We all hit our walls at different moments. If you’ve hit yours. Step away. Know it doesn’t make you less. I know you are not abandoning us. I know you have to take care of you in this moment and I will never fault you for that and if any one does- tune them out. They don’t know what we’ve seen and been through.

If you are still fighting the fight- rock on, stay strong, and take care of yourself in a way that no one else will. “You look great by the way. Whatever you’re doing. Keep doing it.”

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