My #blogexodus post yesterday on Redemption focused on a personally painful subject, bullying. This morning, almost 24 hours after writing that post, I picked up my local newspaper and was confronted by the following headline: “Morristown teen’s apparent suicide being investigated as possible bullying case”.
Two towns over and one day later, my thoughts about potentially deadly consequences of bullying felt sadly prescient. This morning, standing in the synagogue stairway looking out on an appropriately wet and dreary, gloomy, rainy day, I tried to put into words what it felt like to see that story this morning after having revisited my own high school experiences a day earlier.
I had been lucky, I had people who were there for me when I needed them, who by chance were the right people in the right place at the right time. But, what about those who aren’t so lucky, those who aren’t blessed to have someone take notice? And what happens when our children are in pain but can’t show it (or feel that they can’t show it)?
One of the friends with whom I was talking later sent me an email, and with her permission, I want to share some of her thoughts. She put into words much of what I was thinking:
“I loved reading your blog about bullying and how you found redemption through the help of others. Not all of us were as lucky as you were to have people to help them through it. However, redemption can (also) be found in the strength we developed by getting through it on, or mostly, on our own…
“I think this also relates to what we were talking about in the stairwell today about kids who commit suicide and what they’re truly feeling… I think some are just looking to make the pain stop, don’t have the resources to do that and sometimes feel that suicide is the only way to make that pain go away. I think you’re right (said in reference to teaching our children the resiliency skills necessary to endure and ameliorate the pain of difficult times)… redemption can be found when we learn that lesson and when we learn productive ways to end that pain.
…. Parents can provide that redemption—by helping our kids handle bullies, by teaching the responsibility that kids have not to become bullies and by teaching them productive ways to end the pain. Because really, when you think about it, bullies are taking the pain they feel and directing it toward others; kids who commit suicide are taking that same pain and directing it toward themselves.”
And so I’m left with these questions:
Can we teach our children how to take the pain that is inevitable in life and process it productively, rather than directing it inwardly toward themselves or outwardly toward others?
Can we share with them visions of the great opportunity that is their future if they can learn to overcome the challenges of the present? And can we make those visions appealing enough to engage our children in a desire to reach for them?
In sum, can we instill in our children the courage to endure and transcend pain and the faith to know that it won’t last forever, that it will get better?
Can we bestow upon them the sacred (and perhaps life saving) blessing that God gave to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous; be not afraid, nor dismayed; (have the faith) that I am with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Courage, faith and the knowledge that you are not alone; there may be no greater gift we can offer.