How often do we think about the lives of people who walk past us on a day to day basis How many of us think about the consequences of our words and how they affect other people? How do we deal with loss when it happens?
The school I work at was hit hard this weekend. On Saturday, one of our freshman students committed suicide. She had apparently been bullied by some girls and decided to end her life. Yesterday, for me, was spent talking with other teachers to try and find out who knew this young woman and lend my support to those people. Today, back at work, I see the consequences of the actions of a few. Never in my eleven years of teaching have I ever seen such solidarity from the students at my school.
We are a school of over 2000 people. This morning, about fifteen minutes after I arrived at work, there was a large gathering of students out in the hallway outside of my classroom door. At least 100 students. And they were all holding hands and praying together, those who knew her, and those who didn’t. I didn’t know this young girl, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel something. Life is precious and no one should ever feel that they are alone or worthless. No one should ever feel as if killing themselves is their last option.
Some of my students came by the room today, tears in their eyes. Although I have been a teacher for eleven years, I am not equipped to handle their grief. So I did what I could. I hugged them tight. I told them that they are loved. I let them know that I was there for them. The school has offered extra counseling services today, so I let them know of that. And I tried to let them know that even if they were feeling sad, there was someone out there who cares for them.
I remember being in middle and high school. I remember being bullied…no, tormented…by people all throughout those years. I wouldn’t wish that kind of a hell on anyone. But I had people who reminded me that I was worth it. I had a mother and father who tried to talk to me about what was happening in my life. I had people around me who listened when I talked. It may not have been much, but it was enough, for me. I only hope that people remember that sometimes that’s all that it takes.
No one should ever have to bury a child. I feel extremely sad for this young woman’s family. They now have to go on without her, and instead of seeing her bright face, they have to see her as a cause. She has become a rallying cry against bullying. She has become the poster child for what happens when people ignore an epidemic of words. It is not what her legacy should have been, but it is what it has become.
I pray that her family and friends find peace. I pray that people see this and see it as a dire reminder of what our words mean and how they can affect others. I hope that those people who bullied her feel a change of heart. I have heard that students in this building are looking for the people “responsible.” I pray that they look inside of themselves and find that the anger they feel would be better channeled into something else.
To those of you out there who may be feeling the same way, remember this. You are more than just a name or a cause or a face. You are a person who is loved, who has loved, and has affected more people in your lifetime than you will ever know. Talk to someone. Don’t take that last step off of the precipice.
If you or someone you know and love is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255. And if you are passionate about helping people who have hit this place, consider sending a donation to To Write Love on Her Arms, a non-profit that seeks to bring help and attention to people who self-harm, are addicts, are depressed, and are considering suicide.