It is never easy to lose a beloved member of the community; it is even harder to lose one of our young. It is even harder when faced with the reality of suicide.
A natural response for most of us initially is, ‘What part did I play in this? Could I have done something differently? Did I miss any signs?’ I ask myself the same questions. Although this young person was somewhat of an ‘outlier,’ we did cross paths, in church and in the community.
He was not a member of our church, but would pop in and out with his best friend, who was a member. A warm, witty young man. But with eyes that seemed to be longing for something…eyes that were searching…eyes that betrayed an unease in this world…eyes of hurt…
As our close-knit community begins to deal with the aftermath of this tragedy, I offer a few thoughts as we continue to love and minister to the young in our community:
- Everybody is valuable. Each individual is created in the image of God. We tend to spend our time with the fun, the happy, the shiny people. We tend to neglect those we feel don’t ‘bring much to the table.’ This is the real tragedy. Who is sitting alone?
- Target those who have ‘hurting’ eyes. You know them when you see them. My wife is an amazing judge of character, and says that it all starts with the eyes. Learn to read someone’s life story by spending time in their eyes.
- Never cut off lines of communication. People will disappoint you. People will hurt you. People will make your life miserable. But don’t allow these slights to diminish continued communication. Send a note. It can be funny, encouraging, positive; just do it. Send a message on Facebook. Shoot a quick text before school. Don’t give up.
- Talk. And talk some more. What might begin as a soliloquy will eventually become a dialogue. If you are sincere and consistent, you will begin to get a response. Keep talking. And then listen.
- Offer hope. I don’t pretend to know or understand all there is to know about suicide. But this I believe: one does not consider suicide an option if hope remains. Help them focus on the next thing…invite them to help you with a project…keep them plugged in to what’s coming around the corner…always offer hope…better days ahead…
- Pray. You know this. But we have to be aware and sensitive to what’s going on around us. We need to know WHO to be praying for. Ask around if you’re not sure. This is serious business; don’t just shrug it off.
- Deal honestly with this issue. As a parent of five, a long-time youth pastor, and now as a pastor, suicide (especially among the young) is not an issue to avoid. It’s messy and ugly, but so is life. We can’t pretend these things don’t happen in our sleepy little towns. Obviously, these things DO happen. So let’s deal with them, openly and honestly.
Our thoughts and prayers are with this family. To many of us, this is an inconceivable act. To many of us it is cowardly. Shame on us for judging in the wake of this tragedy. Where were we on the front end? How did we let this happen? How many of us missed the signs? How many of us failed to look in his eyes?