Two weeks ago, a boy I knew took his own life.
I hardly knew him. I only met him a few times, in fact. But when I heard the news, in the middle of the school hallway on Thursday, January 21, I cried. I cried because I know the pain he must have been in. I once felt the pain that lies to you and tells you that you have no reason to live anymore. And to imagine someone else feeling the pain that I felt, when I was a freshman and officially diagnosed with depression – well, it breaks my heart. There’s just no other way to put it.
The funeral was possibly the saddest thing I’ve experienced in my entire life. More than anything, it was a huge wakeup call; a dose of reality, a reminder of how incredibly fragile and precious and important life is. And how important it is to tell people that their lives are important.
So often, people say, “You have your whole life ahead of you. You have so much time!” It comes up so often. We all hear it: “We’re young! Let’s have fun, we’ll worry about the important stuff when we’re older,” or, “You don’t have to pursue your music career now; you’re only 18, you have no reason to rush!” or, “We don’t have to worry about making good choices right now. We can wait until after college.” We don’t always even hear it out loud; it’s become a subconscious mindset. And so, we say it to ourselves: “I could text that friend and tell her I’m praying for her, but I can do that another time. Right now, I want to watch The Office,” or “I bet it would make that Starbucks barista really happy if I told her how much I appreciate her remembering my name, but that’s awk… I’ll tell her next time,” or, “I need to stop by my grandparents’ house and just visit for a while, but I have so much to do… Maybe I will tomorrow.” And these statements aren’t all that bad; they’re all influenced by good intentions and the “YOLO” mentality (so 2013, I know) and wanting to live life to the fullest and those are great things. But there’s something we’re missing here. There’s something that we don’t bother to think about, because it’s too scary, and it’s too real. But that’s the point, that it’s real:
What if tomorrow never comes?
No one likes to think about it, or talk about it, or really even believe it. But as I watched that church full of people crying two weeks ago, about the death of that poor boy, it just hit me: there’s always a chance that tomorrow won’t come. For me, for you, for one of the children you babysit. It’s hard to realize that we are never entitled to tomorrow. And with that realization comes two others:
- If tomorrow never comes for me, have I said and done all I wanted to?
- If tomorrow never comes for someone else I know, have I told them all I want to tell them? How much they matter, how important they are, how necessary their life is?
Sitting here thinking about it, I’m embarrassed. Because of course, both of my answers are no. There are so many things I haven’t said and haven’t done. There is so much else I have to give. But even more importantly, there are so many opportunities I’ve missed to tell people how much their lives matter, to me, to God, and to everyone else in the world.
I don’t know how, but I forget how much people are suffering. I forget that quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Of all people, how could I forget? I know that all too well. Freshman year, I went through almost an entire year of fighting severe depression and anxiety without telling anyone but my parents and my therapist. I went through almost a month of feeling like I didn’t have any reason to live anymore, and no one even knew. As I learned to cope with and eventually overcome my depression, I began to realize something: the one thing that could brighten my day, even the slightest bit, was kindness from other people. And I know, that’s a given. But kindness goes so far, and perhaps much farther for someone struggling than for one of those lucky few who isn’t. So, I’ll ask you to do this:
Remind yourself how much one small act of kindness can affect a person.
For instance, over this past Christmas break, my friend’s and I were looking at Christmas lights, and we asked a little girl, about 12 years old, to take our picture. When she handed me back my phone, she said, “I hope this isn’t weird, but I just wanted to tell you that you are really pretty.” And then, even though I thanked her and told her how sweet it was, her face got red and she turned around quickly to join her mom.
That little girl had no idea how much that affected me. It made my whole day, probably my whole weekend. But I thought about something, after she walked away: she was embarrassed of complimenting me. She preceded her compliment with, “I hope this isn’t weird.” And it made me realize that going out of our way to be kind to people has become so foreign to us that we are embarrassed of doing so. And that is such a sad realization to me. We are more comfortable saying bad things about other people than we are about saying good things, and in a world where we hear on a daily basis about people who are so lost and lonely that they are taking their own lives, this discomfort with being kind is so devastating. It just makes me sick.
So, I’ll ask you, if you do nothing else this year, or for the rest of your life, be kinder to people. PLEASE DON’T STOP READING YET, because I know, that’s incredibly cheesy. And if I read that, I would probably be inspired for 2 seconds, then crawl back into my personal bubble of maintaining my pride and not saying or doing anything that someone might think to be “too nice.” But let me elaborate. Tell the people that you love how much you love them. Tell your friends, your mom, your dad, your cousins, how very thankful you are for them, and how your life would not be the same without them. Tell that lady who rings you up at the gas station that she has a beautiful smile. Call your grandparents who live out of town and tell them how much you miss them. Tell your Uber driver you appreciate him. Visit the old man who lives alone next door and just talk to him.
To close, I’d like to share with you some lyrics from one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite artists, Ben Rector:
I’d be dancing like a fool, I’d be laughing I’d be crying / Calling everybody who I’d ever hurt and reconcile them / I’d call everyone I love, say what I was scared to say to them / Now that I think about it, maybe I should always live like the world is gonna’ end.
(Of course, as usual, here’s the link to the song. LISTEN TO IT. IT’S SO GOOD.)
Follow Ben Rector’s advice. Do these things now, today. Don’t wait until next month. Don’t wait until next week. And please, don’t even wait until tomorrow.
Because the truth of it is, some people’s tomorrows never come.
God loves you SO much,
*If you are someone you know is struggling, get help. I cannot stress enough how vital this is; seeing a therapist has been one of the only ways I’ve made it through the hardest times of my life. And I don’t know why I haven’t said this yet, but if you’re ever having a rough day, or a rough week, or just a rough time in general, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’m not a therapist or a psychiatrist or a doctor. But I know what it feels like to suffer. That’s cheesy, and people say that all the time, but I mean it. No matter who you are, we are glad you’re here. And the world wouldn’t be the same without you in it.