There was a school shooting today, in Newtown, Connecticut.
Kindergarteners. First graders. Teachers. 20 children gone. My youngest brothers are 7 and 10, and I have family and cousins all over the country. It could have been in any of their schools. Someone posted a tweet that talked about unopened Christmas presents, and the tears started flowing. I don't have kids of my own, but I'm a teacher. I've sat in classrooms and looked at my kids in the rows of desks or tables... and know how deep that love can be.
My heart goes out to the families, loved ones, and community members there. Losing a family member or friend is... such a personal thing that no words can really describe it. It's a mixture of pain and frustration and shattered dreams, anger and guilt and despair, all mixed into a package of overwhelming reality. What do you do? How can you get up the next morning and make sales calls? How can you fill a hole that no one else can?
There are two parts to this story. When we mourn the loss of the righteous, of the faithful, or of the innocent, we are mourning for ourselves - for our losses and our dreams, our hopes and our quiet conversations. As we come to grips with the love of God, we can know that He is taking care of them... and that through the Atonement all things will be made right.
But when we mourn those who have turned away from light, we are mourning their loss of hope and peace along with our own. And, at least in my case, the mourning feels more real.
In this case, it's the story of a 24-year-old boy who gave up on life and acted out in one last moment of pain. Somehow he believed that he could never find happiness in this life.
And I wonder.
I wonder if he had friends. People he could talk to - not just who listened to him, but helped him find his soul. Not just friends to indulge or echo his thoughts, but who pushed him to be better each passing day, no matter what.
I wonder if he had enemies. People who, from the superficial nature of their lives, were oblivious to what lay beneath the surface. People who said one thing and did another. Who told the rest of the world how much he wasn't worth... with hopes that he would hear it.
I wonder if he had someone who could walk him through his trials and thoughts. If he had someone that he could call in the middle of the night, or the middle of the day, and tell anything and everything without being turned away or accounted less loved.
I wonder who he was. What he loved to do. What happened to begin his pathway towards death. And what I, or someone else, can do to avert this type of disaster in the future.
The reality is that things like this happen far too often. Perhaps not on this scale, involving the deaths of dozens of children, but it's not hard to find less violent but still real evidences that people have been pushed beyond pain.
On a social level, people explode in anger and do things that they would never do in a rational state. Domestic violence, workplace arguments, and bitter disagreements between family or friends exist around the globe.
On a spiritual level, it's even more apparent. Some people who feel stressed spiritually - and are unable to find reconciliation within their faith - leave their beliefs behind but turn against anyone who remains. The few lasting negative responses I've had from people who learn about my life, my loves, my passions, my trials, my blog... have been almost exclusively ex-Mormons. Some lived seemingly happy lives in the gospel, and then something changed. Slowly, quickly, sometimes a bit of both. But in the end, something convinced them that if they can't find happiness in the gospel, no one can.
There's something wrong with our society. Suicide passed car crashes this year as the number 1 cause of mortality from injury in the US, and other industrialized nations are seeing similar results, even with the fact that some suicides are never recorded as suicide. The rate is climbing. Faithful people are losing their testimonies and losing the light and hope in their eyes. Families and friends are losing touch as workplaces, schools, and homes become a more sterile, "safer" place to interact. And today a 24-year-old man destroyed his own life, and the lives of children, because he was pushed beyond pain.
My hope is that I can do my part to change the world back. To help people feel loved even when they look like they don't need it... or even when they say they don't. To push people to find hope and faith in God even when it seems like He hasn't been listening... and when His followers may have said or done horrendous things in the past. And to help people work through the pain that life will inevitably bring.
All of us will be eventually be pushed up against the edge of our ability. And then we'll all be pushed beyond. That's part of mortality and the test that is life. The question then is this: What will I do when I'm pushed beyond pain? Will I turn to God? Will I draw closer to my family? Will I lift the human race? Will I reach out and serve those who need my help?
Or will I give up on life?