“Society is not a bunch of people way out there who sit around big tables and think up political trends or cultural drifts; society is you. Your actions, your decisions, matter. What you do or don’t do has a ripple effect on everyone around you.” Joni Eareckson Tada
Two men stand on the balcony of a big city high rise building. One of them is desperate and hopeless. The other is dealing with the baggage from his youth–rejection, anger, bitterness.
It is my favorite television moment ever. NBC’s This Is Us aired an episode in which Randall talks to a friend planning to commit suicide. Andy is losing his marriage and his career. He’s unloaded his belongings of value and plans to leap off the balcony to end his anguish.
Randall is dealing with pain in his own life. Abandoned at birth, his adoptive mother knew who his father was all his life, but never told him.
Randall tells Andy that things are never as bad as they seem. He can forgive himself. His daughter will have an easier time forgiving his wrong decisions instead of carrying the memory of his suicide on Christmas Eve. Randell shares his own pain.
Randall gives Andy hope. Randall finds hope too. He can forgive his mother. He can exorcize his demons of rage.
If Randall had not been willing to share his own pain and challenges, Andy would not have found hope. Andy, albeit a fictional character, could have instead come to represent an increasing number of Americans who take their own lives.
America has an epidemic of suicide. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, our suicide rate has increased 24 percent in the last 15 years. “Suicide was the third leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 14, and the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 15 and 34.
[In 2015,] “There were more than twice as many suicides (44,193) in the United States as there were homicides (17,793).”
In one of the most comfortable societies in the world, many people have lost hope.
Some people suffer from mental illness. Some endure the results of trauma (veterans and abuse victims). And some are bullied until they can’t take it anymore. Between 2007 and 2014, the suicide rate for middle schoolers–ages 10 to 14–doubled.
When he approached Andy, Randell didn’t know his friend had planned to end his life. Once he understood Andy’s plan though, Randell put himself on the line. He shared his own pain. He helped Andy understand he was not alone.
No traumatized veteran, no tormented school child, no aching abuse victim, no one should ever think they are alone in the world.
Andy and Randell are fictional. But the pain they depict is real for many. We all carry our own pain. But perhaps it becomes useful, even helpful when we share it with others.
“Not for ourselves alone are we born,” Cicero wrote.
And in helping someone else, you may find hope growing within yourself.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
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