The library where I work has a large number of transient kids that hang out there during the day. They use the computers, read magazines, chat with us, and sometimes even help us ‘manage’ the more volatile patrons. Many of them openly admit to getting in trouble for minor crimes and have no problem talking about the mistakes they’ve made in their past. And many of these kids (or at least some of them!) are trying to do something better with their lives.
A lot of these kids are only around for a few days or weeks before moving on to the next town, but others have been there long enough that I’ve struck up small friendships with them and even look forward to seeing them every day.
About a week ago, one of these young guys told me he had a job interview at a shoe store in the mall. I wished him good luck and said for him to let me know how it went. Then the next day he came back and, suppressing a huge grin, told me he’d gotten the job. I was so excited for him! What an incredible step in the right direction! It absolutely made my day. I thought to myself, “Here’s a kid who’s been beaten down by life’s circumstances, he’s made bad choices in the past and gotten himself into trouble, but he’s trying to fix things and make life better for himself.” It may seem like such a simple, trivial thing but to me it was huge. I was immensely proud and, honestly, inspired.
Today I found out a different young guy from the library had committed suicide. I don’t know how or why, aside from the gossip that has started spreading around, but it would still be heartbreaking regardless of the hows and whys.
I honestly didn’t even know him that well. I knew his name and I saw him nearly every day, but that was about it. I don’t know where he lived, how old he was, or if he even had any family in the area. Nothing. So why is his death disturbing me so badly? It’s not because I feel a personal loss – like I said, I barely knew him – but more because it’s such a horrible, mindless tragedy. To think about what he must’ve been going through in the weeks leading up to that night – the loneliness and stress and desperation he must’ve felt – it just makes me so unbearably sad.
It really puts my own problems into perspective, too. I know that no matter how bad things get, I will always have a support network to turn to for strength and security. I have a God who loves me, friends and family – even my dogs offer me incredible comfort. Did this young man truly have none of those things? Was he really so alone in the world? I can’t stand the thought of that. I can’t stand the thought of anyone feeling that alone and helpless.
I think I’ve learned two very important things this week. (As if such a tragedy could possibly be summed up into a life lesson.) First of all, we always have options. When life gets really hard, we can let the darkness win and just give in to it. Or we can keep fighting back. I can’t possibly know what that young man had going on in his life and I’m not judging him at all for committing suicide, but I’m saying we can always choose to keep fighting. Like the guy who got a job this week and is trying to turn his life around. We have to be strong and keep finding hope and keep working towards a bright future.
Second, your death would affect people around you that you may not even realize care about you. (Does that sentence make sense? Do you know what I’m trying to say?) I can assure you the guy who committed suicide wouldn’t have known me from a random lady in a grocery store, and he never could’ve imagined how much his death would affect me. When it feels like there’s no one in the world who cares about you or would notice if you were gone, that’s simply not true. There are people who care about you and think of you that you’re probably not even aware of. So next time you’re feeling alone and helpless, think about that. There are always people to turn to who want to help. Reach out to a loved one, a church, or even the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) if you truly feel like there’s no one else.
Life gets really hard and I understand feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. I feel like that most of the time, actually. But suicide can’t be the answer. God created us for a much bigger and better purpose than that.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the dichotomy presented to me this week between the guy who got a job and the guy who committed suicide. Maybe there are no lessons to take from this and I just have to chalk it up to “That’s life and it sucks,” but maybe not. Maybe it’s the most brutal life lesson I’ve ever learned from the sidelines.
When life gets tough, get tougher. Don’t let the darkness win. There’s always somewhere to turn. Suicide is not the answer, ok?
(Check out HeartSupport. They’re an online community focused on encouraging and empowering today’s youth who are struggling with mental health and other major problems. They focus on the music scene kids but it’s really for anyone. They are an incredible resource.)