Friday, August 5, 2011

N is for Never thought this would happen…

In youth ministry, and working with youth in general, there are wonderful times, hard times, frustrating times and sad times.  You are constantly worrying about your youth.  There are so many influences out there in the world, so many ways for someone to get off track. There are bullies, mean girls, peer pressure situations, and just the want to fit in that cause youth to do things they really don’t want to do.  I think the most hurtful is that often without thinking about it, we all cause pain to our youth and each other through our words.  Words can be so hurtful and not easily erased. 
Late last year I got an email from a friend that is now the Director of Youth Ministries for a church that I used to work for.  In the email she told me that one of my former youth from when I was at the church, committed suicide.  I think my jaw hit my keyboard when I read the message. 
Memories started to rush through my head.  I could see him sitting across from me on the couch, laughing and cutting up.  I remembered all those N.C. State shirts that he would wear and he would give me so much grief for being a Virginia Tech fan.  I remember the lock ins where he would participate in everything we did.  Pilgrimage when he sat in the front seat next to me in my car on the way there.   All I could picture was wonderful great memories. 
Over the next day or two I started to think about it some more.  Did I miss something?  Was there something else I could of done to help him?  He was a senior in college when he took his own life.  What was it that caused him to do it?  I had so many unanswered questions. 
I asked a friend what they thought.  They said that often we don’t see it.  It often happens that those with inner turmoil that don’t reach out and ask for help or show the signs of struggling are the ones that commit suicide. 
I struggled with this.  It is the worst feeling in the world.  I could have never imagined the pain and inner struggle that he was going through.   The youth I work with are so important to me.  Each of them are unique and hold their own place in my heart.
Youth, please come to us with your problems and struggles.  Talk to your mentors, youth ministers, teachers, guide counselors, and parents.  Please be open and know that we understand what you are going through and are here to help.  Please never allow yourself to get to the point of taking your own life.
Adults that interact with youth, please be understanding and responsive.  Be a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear.  Please don’t shrug off a youth that has reached out to you.  It is easy to do this in this fast paced world, but they want to talk to you specifically for a reason.  It is hard to build a trust level with a youth to where they feel comfortable and want to talk to you about their lives.  Don’t judge.  God is the only one who can judge you.  Each of us have done something we are not proud of and we have no right to judge anyone. 
 Just listen. 
Please know there is help out there, people and programs that will help you through life.  Never allow the hurting painful parts of life to drive you to suicide.  Life is too precious. 

God love you always no matter what. 
 Reach out…

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