A few years ago, my community was rocked by a string of suicides by the youth in the area. One young man after another unexplainably, took his own life. Forums were held at the local high schools, suicide awareness posters were posted all over the city, counselors were hired from outside the school district to talk to the kids, and every sullen teen in town was signed up for counseling; but none the efforts really seemed to help.
I guess that dropping from four kids one school year to three the next, statistically speaking, seems like a gain, but to me it feels like a loss. My town is one of the more affluent in my state and is known by the quality of education that is offered in the local high schools. We are a community of upscale homes, BMWs, and gated neighborhoods; where over-stressed moms overschedule their kids with unending activities. Even the local elementary schools have gotten on the bandwagon of “Do More. Be More”. Children no longer rush out the door for recess, instead they power walk around the playground, twice, before being allowed to run freely and climb the jungle gym. There is an ordered, rigid standard that needs to be maintained and its sucking the life out of our youth.
The school year began in August and two weeks after the first bell of the semester rang, a young woman took her life. First girl to make the list. And then this weekend, another young man who graduated four years ago did the unspeakable. Why does this keep happening? Why is the hopeless decision to die the only alternative these kids see? Every time I attend another funeral for one of these kids, I whisper a thousand selfish thank yous that it wasn’t my kid. The distress I felt a week earlier over something my own children had done is replaced by relief that they are all healthy.
Sometimes, it’s hard to reconcile the wrong in the world with the righteousness of God. Freedom of choice doesn’t seem like such a good thing in these instances. What’s the answer? Hope.
Hope that comes from Christ, not the world. But how do we bring hope to a group of people who don’t realize that is the one thing they are lacking in their have more lives? There is nothing wrong with pursuing a profitable career or owning a nice car, but when everything you do is focused on pursuing the next thing and not the real thing issues arise. When we race from activity to activity and force our kids to keep up with the frenzied pace we have set for ourselves, we create chaos in our well-meaning lives.
I did this for the longest time. I rushed mindlessly around shuffling kids from one “enriching” activity or sport until they passed out from sheer exhaustion at night. I would then attempt to organize and clean the house in the five minutes of free time I had in my day. After packing my day full of busyness, I would lie awake in bed and worry about the next day, running through my to-do list and going over a budget that was always too tight to pay for these things I thought my children really needed. I was miserable, and I’m sure my kids were as well.
I made sure we had time for sports, scouts, and school, but squeezed in God on Sundays and as a brief bedtime prayer. No wonder we had so much strife. I don’t think I am the only mom to say yes to the good and forget the best that is right in front of us.
Every time an event like last week’s hits so close to home, I am reminded of just how blessed I am to have the healthy, happy-ish kids I have. My parenting is not perfect, but at least I have finally come to a place of peace with my kids. And I try to allocate hope to my kids so they don’t give up in a world where quitting is becoming more and more acceptable.
I worry that these gates that we have erected to keep the bad guys out or our neighborhoods have also kept us from real relationships with each other and a caring God. The chaos we have created is the name of raising our children has eroded our calm and undermined our fellowship with friends. It’s time to relax and rejoice in the moments God gives us with our families and friends.
I wish I had the answers so that no mom would ever have to bury another child after this kind of senseless tragedy. I don’t. But I do know that Jesus is the only thing to cling to in times like this. He is also the only thing that can change the heart of a desperate and damaged individual whose hope has runout. He is Hope incarnate in this hopeless world.
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, and a part-time basket case who wants to be a full time writer.