The texts came in slowly.
“I tried to help him.”
“I talked to him every day.”
“I tried to try to save him.”
My heart sank and my mind flooded. The irony is not lost on me. She just lost her brother, first to drugs, now to suicide. He was so young. His childhood barely gave him a chance. She works in the office right next to mine, doing the work I do, and still – it happened.
My mind is running faster, I feel the insecurities rise. I begin to question it all – life, work, God.
I know this kind of pain. I’ve been there. I’ve seen my family struggle through the aftermath. I’m so, so sad. I wouldn’t wish this kind of pain on my worst enemy. I don’t understand.
Another text comes through.
“He was trying to get his life back on track. He was only supposed to be there for 2 months, but he kept getting in trouble and they kept extending his stay. According to the police, the case manager just met with him and told him ‘you’re never getting out of here’, took his phone and sent him to his room. He died an hour later.”
Just like that. I understood. I completely understood. Like a domino effect, I saw the whole thing clearly. No longer was I questioning life, my work and certainly not God. Yet, I was more devastated for her than before. Because she knew what I knew. She saw what I saw. In that single moment, her brother lost sight of the things most precious in this world – Faith, Hope and Love.
Everyone always talks about knowing your WHY. I talk about my WHY a lot when introducing how I got into this line of work.
My “Why Story” always starts with the story of my brother in law’s suicide. It was 7 years ago that we lost him. First to drugs, then to suicide. He was young- in his 20s. At the time it was a shock to the system but not unthinkable. He came from a long history of trauma, abuse, neglect and a drug-fueled home. He was in and out of jail.
He was high.
He was homeless.
He was lost.
And then he was gone.
Since that day, I have had the privilege of working with 100’s of youth and adult men and women just like my brother in law and just like the young man we lost this week.
Back then, when it happened, I was the person I’m talking to today. I was the frustrated outsider. The woman on the sidelines disgusted by the emotional debris he and his family continuously left behind, for the man I loved most in this world, to pick up. I was the well-meaning “helper” whose job was literally to teach drug prevention to teens. I was the self-righteous teacher who knew better and thought he should know better too because “we have all told him a million times”.
Turns out, I wasn’t all that helpful. I was missing the most important pieces. I had all the knowledge, all the stats, all the tools and obvious steps for him and all the other kids I was working with, to take. If they would just listen, they would stay drug-free and lead healthy, self-sufficient lives. But the vessel in which I was carrying my message was missing 3 key truths about life and about how our mind works.
I knew on some level we were all made of love and from love. I mean I’ve never met a newborn baby that wasn’t the purest form of love. I didn’t know that same essence stayed with us all, forever. That it couldn’t be broken or stripped away after enough bad decisions. I didn’t see that at the core of who we all are, lies a SPARK that will lead us back to love and understanding- every single time. Therefore, I couldn’t see the people I was working with or the loved ones in my life – making different choices than mine – as being the same as me. I didn’t see through the eyes of love or understanding. Instead, I would see them as whatever the state of their mind was in that moment. I used to see all kinds of people – depressed, addicted, selfish, lazy, anxious, manipulative, disrespectful, aggressive, arrogant, ignorant, soft, tough, etc.
Now, no matter who shows up in front of me – I see them no different than me – a human made of love, from love. Whatever behaviors they come with are simply a reflection of their state of mind in that moment and the kindest, most helpful thing I can do is to – at the very least – not add to it. When you see someone as unbroken -when you truly see someone as whole – that’s the deepest kind of Love on offer.
I have always had faith in God. What I lacked was faith in the human design. I did not see that we are all born with an innate capacity to bounce back- regardless of tough circumstances, past trauma or the amount of times we’ve failed. I didn’t know that my feelings and experience were just a reflection of thought in the moment and weren’t telling me about who I am or my capacity to rise again. I didn’t see that the very nature of thought is to pass. I didn’t know the human potential was that resilient. That change was possible for anyone, anytime. Because I didn’t see this as a fact, I was at the mercy of whether bouncing back was in the cards this time – for myself or the people in my life. I knew it was possible, but I didn’t know that the very design of the human mind made it highly probable and even inevitable – given enough time. Therefore, I only had a blind faith that was easily distracted when things felt hard and I often lost faith in the ones that just weren’t “getting it”.
Now, I have much more than a blind faith – the waters have been tested time and time again. People are born to rise. Thought doesn’t sometimes pass, or occasionally pass. It will eventually pass, every single time. We are never stuck with our state of mind or the label that comes with it. With each new thought, comes a new beginning, a new opportunity, a new experience, a new life.
The way we all fall may not look the same. You may never use drugs or fall into a deep depression. But as humans we all use our minds against ourselves at times. We all have experiences that change the way we view life and we find ourselves feeling stuck. We all get swept up in the experience of our thinking and make choices we regret from time to time.
The way I see it is we all fall differently but we all heal the same. Hope is the fuel for all healing. Hope breeds possibility. When someone gets the slightest glimpse of hope, the state of their mind will naturally shift – even if it’s the slightest bit. It’s inevitable. Hope comes in endless forms – there is no right or wrong way to find it or to share it. But, in my experience, there is something extraordinarily hopeful in seeing the potential and capability of the human mind and spirit.
Faith Hope and Love.
These words look different to me these days. They aren’t just nice ideas anymore. They are a foundation in which everything else can grow. They are the nutrients found in all fertile, life soils.
I didn’t see it back then and so I acted, with the purest of intentions, the best way I knew how. It’s ironic how when you don’t see something for yourself, it literally doesn’t exist in your world. You-me-we-are all left to navigate life with our current perspective. However, when we have eyes for something, it becomes so blatantly obvious to us, that we can get obnoxiously smug about others not seeing “the thing” through our lens.
I’m trying really hard not to be smug or angry or desperate or even evangelistic about this message. I can see, people are truly doing the best they can, given what looks real to them. It’s not that we HAVE to do better – though that thought has been playing on repeat in my brain since I heard the news. We really don’t HAVE to do anything.
It’s simply that we CAN do better and quite frankly we just DO better when we understand better. The way I see it, for those of us who are in the helping field, we all have one job in common. Point those we work with towards Love, Faith and Hope. They will always do the heavy lifting for us.