Last Saturday, I sat in church for a service with many people from my community. None of us wanted to be there. We listened to Pastor Roger give a message around the question, “Why?” A question that will never be answered.
We all gathered together: the young man’s mother, father and stepmother. Aunts and Uncles. Cousins. Friends. Classmates. Parents of friends and classmates. Teachers. Bus drivers. Coaches. VBS teachers. Pastor. Church family.
Through tears, we watched a slideshow of pictures. Twenty-one years of life – a happy, smiling kid loving life. How do you leave out a photo when there will never be another?
After the service, we all hugged each other, bound together through grief and tears. As I hugged the young men and women from our community, I saw grief and unanswered questions in their eyes. The question, “Why,” weighs heavily.
But in the eyes of their parents, mixed with the grief, I saw fear.
Their question – “What if?”
The question and the fear are real. Made even larger in all of our minds because this is our tiny community’s fourth young adult to take his own life in the past 3 ½ years.
My first inclination is to fix our community. Fix all of the problems in the school, the churches, and the community organizations. Because, really, aren’t we all responsible for these young lives? Let’s point fingers and blame each other. Set up more programs. Fix it.
But then I thought of my own struggles with anxiety and depression. Pointing fingers and blaming others have done nothing to help me. Thinking I have any control to fix my community is futile.
The only person I have any control over is me. Not my husband, not my kids, not my extended family, not the people in the church, the school, or the community organizations. I only have control over me.
But my actions can change my community. I will engage with my community. I will build relationships. Connect with friends. Build trust. And hope.
I will live an authentic life. I will speak well of people. I will share my faith.
I will make the difficult phone call when someone is hurting. I will show up. Not to fix, but to love.
I will reach out to a trusted friend when I find myself sinking into depression or when anxiety hijacks my thoughts. I will name my emotions, try to understand them, and accept them instead of burying or numbing my emotions. I will seek counseling when I need more tools to move through depression and anxiety.
My hope in living an authentic and wholehearted life is to encourage both the young adults and the parents that there is hope. You are not alone. I struggle, but by being courageous, leaning on my faith in God, learning to know myself and gaining the tools I needed through seven months of counseling, I can live my life. Not someone else’s. My life.