Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Words on a Rock...

On the lawn outside the school where I work, there is a large boulder.  It's sort of an all occasion greeting card stone.  Sometimes, it boasts a victory: Way to go, Cougar Wrestlers!!  Other times, it leads a charge:  Beat the Panthers!  Other times to mourns a loss of someone significant:
Although it stood for everyone to see, I covered up the name out of respect.
This is the way the rock looked today.  Freshly painted, with carefully printed words for passersby to read.

Some of the words neatly crafted on the other side of the rock included: 
We miss you!       Talented     Special

When I saw the memorial monolith, I knew it marked the passing of a student.  The name, however, was not familiar to me (as many are not since I work with such a small group of students and am still relatively new).  So when I had a chance, I looked up the name to see if I could find out a little more information about the young person being grieved.   The obituary was sadly sparse, which suggested the sad truth about how this young person died.  I later confirmed my suspicions that this student, only 17 years old, tragically took her own life.  Dishearteningly, this is at least the 2nd time that the rock has offered this particular kind of remembrance in the last 6 months.

One of the thing that struck me about the rock and the tragedy it represents were the simple words of praise and admiration that were expressed.  It made me wonder how the young girl missed the fact that others felt this way about her, or more so, how she missed the fact that her life had significance and value.  It made me wonder what  the other powerful words of negativity were that echoed in her mind and heart when she closed her eyes at night.  Believe me, I am in no way passing judgement or trying to determine if someone is responsible for this.  I cannot even imagine how the family and close friends of this young person must feel.  And, I realize that sometimes, even the best attempts at caring and intervention do not prevent someone from taking their own life.  BUT, I still wonder, how it is that, at the end of the day, this treasure did not know her worth?

In reality, I think many of us have dark moments.  But, for most of us, I hope and pray, those dark moments are fleeting.  Or, if they linger longer than they should, most people have the ability to seek out the help needed to move from dark into light.  The clouds that fog the mind and distort perceptions usually break and usher in a new day.  But, for this student, somehow the darkness must have not had a silver lining.  Or perhaps in a desperate moment, she allowed an impulsive short term decision determine the long term outcome.  

When I read the words on the rock, I wondered about how many times she heard those sentiments from others...or how often she said them to herself.  I wonder if I ever passed her in the hallways and smiled at her.  I wonder if I ever held a moment of eye contact with her, giving her some sort of affirmation that someone noticed her.  It made me wonder about how many times I pass other students or staff members in the hallways without noticing them or acknowledging them.  Not that every teenager out there wants this 40 year old woman to smile at them...some might find that uncomfortably odd....but everyone, I believe, wants to know that they are not invisible.  Everyone wants to know that they somehow matter.  When I read the words on the rock, I desperately wanted to turn back the clock so that this young woman would simply know that she mattered...and that she was loved...that she was considered beautiful, talented, an angel, and special. 

Dear ones, today, I want you to know that you matter!  You are beautiful, talented, and special!  You are uniquely gifted and infinitely loved.  You are, by the very fact that you are, a treasure and a gift.  I know I've written something similar here before, but too bad.  Truth never goes out of fashion...unlike my mall hair of the 80's and the low-risers that are beginning to phase out when I have finally gotten comfortable in embracing them!  Yes, my friend, you are made in the image of the Divine Creator....if that ain't cool, I don't know what is.

I know the rock will soon be repainted to acknowledge some event around the bend.  I imagine, however, that the image will remain with me for some time.  May I have the eyes to see and the heart to act when someone needs to simply know that they matter.

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