It was a year ago. Even now, I can see it. On that very spot, two schools had come together to run the Panther home course. Including the dreaded *Suicide Hill.
It was Senior Night. A time of celebration; of happiness. Of the passing of batons from the senior class to the underclassmen. There’d be a cookout, laughter floating on the night air, and a party up in the barn that rested atop a slight rise.
I recall it so clearly. For intertwined with the bright ribbons of ‘happy,’ a dark and heavy cord of sorrow. A weight; an anchor that pulled and tugged in a weeping undercurrent. For the visiting team…oh, that very weekend, one of their student body had cashed it in. Had given up. Had decided life wasn’t worth living, and he’d committed suicide.
I recall, too, the beautiful thing that happened that night near the base of our own Suicide Hill. Glancing over, there they were; two teams coming together as one, putting school colors aside, and for a moment, they were one team. And prayer happened.
Last night, my mind flashed back to that scene. That tragedy. Here, a year later, disbelieving, shocked, for it had happened again. Last week, another one of their boys had taken his own life. And the words that came next cut like a knife: “He was a member of their cross-country team.”
Standing there, flinching beneath the blow, I could only see the race two weeks before on a blistering Tuesday night. Theirs and ours, Panthers and Pilgrims on their home course, a jagged line of boys streaming up and down THEIR hills, rounding that final curve and sweeping up the long line of trees, filtering into the finish chute, one, two, three.
And one of the boys that was running that night, healthy, strong, and fit, was gone. By his own hand. One night, running free in evening’s sun. One day, body still, never to run again.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+DiggPinterestBloggerThe gun has sounded, our boys are out of sight now, threading their way through the woods, and beside me? My own son’s beloved youth pastor. We’re watching, waiting for him to come past, and so I’m telling him what’s just happened. And there it comes.
“I was just down at Riley (Children’s Hospital) visiting a Northwood student who tried to commit suicide.” What? Stone still. “She’s not doing very well.”
My God. My Lord. Hurtin’ kids are everywhere.
Today, my heart burns within me for the pain of our youth. At NorthWood, we have been tremendously blessed with coaches and teachers who love Him and love our kids. At our church, we’ve been tremendously blessed by youth pastors who love Him and love our kids. Their investment cannot be calculated in dollars and cents. Only in Heaven will we know the true value of their gift.
We cannot leave the raisin’ of our kids to our coaches, teachers, pastors. Shoot, we can’t even manage the full raisin’ of our kids by ourselves. We need help.
We need God to parent us first so we can parent them. Then, my friend, we need each other. Nobody gets a pass. No one.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a parent or not. You have a heart; you can love. You have eyes; you can see. You have ears; you can hear. You have arms; you can embrace. All of this, you can do for the young ones who are right in your path.
Don’t be fooled by outward behavior. Don’t be put off by a crazy appearance. Don’t judge by tattoos or piercings or makeup or clothing or ‘tude.
The sullen youth slouched on the couch at the coffee shop, ears full of ear buds. The apparently happy, young barista who serves you caffeine. The listless boy who’s collectin’ the carts at the store where you shop for your family. The angry, belligerent teen who’s workin’ the drive through.
He’s someone’s boy. She’s someone’s girl. And you are the one with the chance; the chance to bless, to love, to speak life.
Please, please, invest in my sons. Invest in, reach out to the sons of others. See–really see the daughters around you. And I’ll do the same, by God’s grace, for yours, too.
In a hospital room to the south, a young girl is fighting. Fighting for life, for hope, needing joy, looking for love. And in the halls of our school , kids with secrets. Which three girls collected in the video above. Our kids; our sons, our daughters. Let us love them.
Video credit to Zoe Lawton, Amanda Byland, and Mary Replogle, NorthWood students.
*Suicide Hill has been aptly named as such by other schools due to its incline and the fact that it must be run twice in a cross-country meet.