Across the Great Divide
I originally wrote this in February when the events were fresh. For aome reason I decided not to post it at the time. Re-reading it the other day, I decided it was worth revisiting. Thankfully, some things have changed since then, including growing relationships within the community. And yet, so many of the divides remain. Please pray for our divided world.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution won't name the teen who committed suicide yesterday out of respect for the family's privacy. Meanwhile, among his peers (and his brother's peers), privacy was a moot issue. Everybody knows, because information spreads. On Twitter and Facebook, his friends are posting their memorials, sharing his name, and keeping up with plans for remembrances. What a bizarrely divided world we live in.
There is surely a generation gap at work here. Some parents didn't even know that any of this had happened. When they talk to their kids, they're lucky to get a two syllable answer. Some of the teen's friends have been carrying around the weight of conversations they had with him - wondering if they could've saved his life with a different word or phrase here or there. And their parents didn't know about any of this until now. What a divided world we live in.
The schools are doing their best. Crisis teams have come in. Churches and pastors have reached out, and have largely been told, "Thank you for your concern." The separation of church and state is so deeply ingrained that we can't even partner on an issue of such crucial community concern that none of us, let's be honest, is equipped to handle alone. What a divided world we live in.
And as the generation divide grows, we continue to isolate people by age: old folks in old folks homes, kids in schools and so many afterschool programs it makes your eyes bleed. Churches, instead of leading the way as a radical place of intergenerational inclusion, have followed suite, with "age appropriate" worship services. What a bizarrely divided world we live in.
We are still in the midst of this crisis. So many are grieving a life that cut itself short and a world of questions that hang in the air like the stench of raw sewage. The one thing I hope we can really lay to rest is this divided world. I hope we can find a way to bury it. Let's move past the taboos that we, ourselves, have created. We have convinced ourselves that our children do best when they interact with "experts", and so parents are terrified of speaking to their kids. We are certain that the only way that religion can interact with society is either through total isolation or theocracy, when there are so many of us who have never seen our faith as merely a means to convince people that our version of events is more right than theirs; how in the world can you work through suicide without touching on the divine and on questions of ultimate meaning? We are so fearful of boring our children in worship, or so concerned with it being "our time" that we end up further isolated, less able to create shared experiences, hopes, dreams; so much so that we no longer even know how to talk to our kids. And we certainly don't understand this whole world of social media; anything that happens on a computer certainly can't be real, so we wait for them to grow out of it, just like we grew out of touchtone phones and new-fangled answering machines.
Suicide is horrible. It is unfair to those who are left behind to clean up the mess. It is a brutal awakening to the despair that takes such deep root. My hope is in the possibility that it could awaken us from the stupor of our own creation, to begin to live as those who think both critically and inclusively, as people who take nothing for granted - not the air we breathe, the blessings we receive, nor the "wisdom" we are expected to assume as fact. Let this be a new day, a new life, a new birth.